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The Zen of Being More Dog

by Vidya Sury April 30, 2018 36 comments
The Zen of being a dog--It's about the dog. The dog book blog tour #Zen #dogs

Man’s best friend. Unconditional love. Health booster. Cuddles. Love. Patient. Playful. Loving. Fun. Happiness.

That’s what comes to my mind when I think of dogs. So much we can learn from them. And none better than my dear friend Guilie–who blogs about dogs at Life In Dogs, and about everything else at Quiet Laughter–to showcase those lessons!

I am privileged to know Guilie and I am thrilled to be part of The Dog Book Blog Tour for her forthcoming book It’s About the Dog: The A-to-Z Guide for Wannabe Dog Rescuers (Everytime Press, April 2018): a hands-on, less-tears-more-action, 100% practical introduction to dog rescue.

The Zen of being more dog--It's about the dog. The dog book blog tour #Zen #dogs

Over to you, Guilie!

Here’s an endless supply of coffee ♥


And thank you so much for this grand finale to my April A to Z Challenge, 2018.


Vidya, thank you so much for having me! You were such an integral part of this project from the start, back in April 2016, so I’m honored, and very, very happy, that you’re part of the celebrations of the book’s release. Plus, your blog is an oasis of peace and insight, and the opportunity to contribute to this beautiful thing you and your readers have created is a privilege.

So—Z day! If you’ve been doing the A-to-Z this month, I doff my hat to all of you who accepted the challenge and rode it out to the dazed and sleep-deprived end. In recognition of your sacrifice, I intended to keep this post short, but… Well. Hopefully you’ll find it worth the read.

You must have seen, passing by on social media somewhere, that 2018 is the Year of the Dog. Being the self-proclaimed Crazy Dog Lady of this particular corner of the blogosphere, I have some rather unorthodox ideas about what this represents.

Those of us whose lives have been blessed by a substantial dose of dogs know that they are the bearers of profound wisdom. For millennia, dogs have been the keepers of the secret to happiness, fulfillment, and peace.

So, on the basis of not just transcendental philosophy but also of sheer fun factor, I invite you to join in a maverick, alternative approach to this particular Year of the Dog.

Yes! Be More Dog! Now, I’m not proposing you go out and chase cars (well, not right this minute, anyway), or that you roll in a bank of mud or chew a frisbee to bits (please don’t do that—and if you do, please don’t swallow any of the bits). It’s really rather simple, and it boils down to five things you can start doing right now. This very minute.


Lesson 1 The Zen of being more dog--It's about the dog. The dog book blog tour #Zen #dogs

Joy. If there is one thing that sets dogs apart, not just from us humans but from most animals, it’s their capacity for joy. Everything is a cause for celebration for them. Car? YES! Yard? YES! Couch? YES! New bed? YES! (And Imma gonna chew it to bits to show how much I love it!) Vet visit and bath are maybe not so big in the YES department, but how about the end of the bath, the exit from the vet’s office? YES YES YES!

The message is clear: everything can be celebrated—should be celebrated. Don’t spend your life waiting for the big things. Stop weighing and debating whether something merits celebration or not; celebrate it all. Yes, even the bad stuff. Even suffering, and pain. Because these ‘negatives’ teach us things—about ourselves, about others, about the world. They make us stronger. They offer a priceless gift: the opportunity to overcome, to help, to make the world a better place.

Lesson number one: Strive for a constant state of joy.

 Lesson 2 The Zen of being more dog--It's about the dog. The dog book blog tour #Zen #dogs

Forgiveness. I live with eight rescue dogs, and I’ve helped to rescue and rehome countless others. Dogs who lived through horrible situations of neglect and abuse. Dogs who bore not just scars but open, suppurating wounds, both physical and emotional. Every single one of them had every reason to never trust another human being again. But guess what? They all do. They trust their new families, they even managed to trust the rescuer who came to get them off the street or out of that decrepit yard. I’m not saying it was easy; it’s a long road back to the bond of trust between canine and human, longer for some than for others—but it does happen. More often than, say, the average human gets past even minor betrayals.

Way, way more often. By far.

How do they do it? How do they find the will, the courage, to put their trust again in humans, this species who has hurt them so much already? How do they let go of all this hurt?

They forgive. In absolute sincerity, in ever-renewed hope, dogs are always keen to start a new day, clean the slate, let bygones be bygones. Dogs are always eager to move forward.

Lesson number two: No grudge is worth holding on to. No hurt is worth allowing yourself to be held back. Practice forgiveness, and keep moving forward.

 Lesson 3 The Zen of being more dog--It's about the dog. The dog book blog tour #Zen #dogs

Live in the Moment. Why do we worry so much about the future, obsess so much about the past? Why do we insist on living in a time that doesn’t exist? Look at dogs: they’re always present in the now, and they’re immeasurably happy, much happier than we are, because of it. Their concept of time is much more elastic than ours, more flexible, more… well, timeless, I suppose. In their minds, it’s always now, never tomorrow or a few hours from now. This is what makes it possible for them to live with such joy, and to forgive so generously. Because of this, they’re able to just be.

I realize it’s impossible for humans to achieve this level of detachment from time; we’d need to revert to a much earlier version of our brains, for one. And maybe eschew civilization and move to the mountains, live a hermit life. (That doesn’t sound half bad, actually…)

But I still believe that, even if we never achieve this detachment, the exercise is worth the effort, and brings valuable benefits. That is, after all, what the entire mindfulness movement is about, so it’s not entirely hopeless, or unhinged, to try. Strive to cleanse our perception from the context of future or past concerns, and ground it in the present. Insert a few moments, even just one, into our days when we endeavor to be free from expectations and hopes and even dreams, certainly from worries and insecurities and grudges and regrets, and just be.

Lesson number three: Your past does not define you; neither does your future. Discover who you are when these two variables disappear from the equation of your being.

 Lesson 4 The Zen of being more dog--It's about the dog. The dog book blog tour #Zen #dogs

Adapt. Survival of the fittest. Back in Darwin’s day, everyone understood fit as strong. As in brute force. Then evolutionary biology became a thing, we learned a whole lot more about all sorts of creatures—dinosaurs, for instance—and we realized that strength is maybe not what we thought it was. That maybe being fit has less to do with the bulk of muscle than with the suppleness of adaptation.

You know who are masters of adapting? Dogs. Stray and feral dogs, especially. Humans, and cohabitation with humans, were key for the dog’s evolution from that wolf ancestor. Their link with us, emotional and practical, has been the defining force in their history—and in ours. They guarded us, alerted us to dangerous predators, helped us hunt, kept us warm on cold steppe nights. Now that we, as a species, have no more practical use for them and have turned our backs on them, they’ve been shut out of our ‘caves’, shoved out into the streets, shunned and reviled like pariahs.

The loss of their habitat in such drastic manner should have spelled extinction for them—for any species, really. And yet here they are. Surviving. Adapting. Carving out a life for themselves in the background of our civilization, the back streets of our cities, subsisting on our trash. They learn to cross busy intersections, to stay away from humans, to run from a raised arm, to dodge fast-moving feet.

Most of all, though, amid all the hardships they face, they don’t wallow. Away from the human eye (and the human danger), they find time to lie in the sun, to roll in a patch of grass. They enjoy every morsel of food they find, drink with pleasure from even a dirty puddle. In short, they refuse to allow adversity to rule their lives.

Adaptability is more than just shrugging one’s shoulders and submitting, passively, to whatever new curve ball life has seen fit to throw our way. It’s about making the best of it, embracing in, knowing that whatever it is, however difficult, we are stronger—and we show it by finding that spot in the sun, that patch of grass.

Lesson number four: A stiff branch will break, but a supple one will bend. Practice suppleness.

Lesson 5 The Zen of being more dog--It's about the dog. The dog book blog tour #Zen #dogs

Use Your Sense(s). Dogs experience the world very differently than we do. Ours is a mainly visual world. Of the traditional subdivision of the arts (sculpture, painting, dance, poetry, music, architecture, performing), only one—music—does not hinge absolutely on vision. Think of how much our lives pivot on TV and social media, and then try, just for kicks, to use either without your eyes. Try blindfolding yourself and then, say, cooking a meal. Or just finding your way to the bathroom from where you’re sitting reading (with your eyes!) this.

People who have lost their sight report a heightened development of their other senses. Hearing, certainly, but also smell and touch—and a fairly unknown one, proprioception, which has to do with your perception of space and of your body in it. (We have all sorts of senses, far more than the basic five everyone knows. Subtle things, like the ability to maintain balance, or keeping track of our limbs—because no one likes a straying leg or arm!) Take away one sense, especially one as crucial to us as sight, and the rest of the senses jump in to pick up the slack.

But why wait until one of the senses fail? How much are we missing out on through this dependence on sight, this addiction to how things look?

For a dog, the world comes in through the nose—and what a fabulously rich world it is. You might be able to smell the perfume you’re wearing, perhaps now and then a whiff of whatever’s cooking in the kitchen. But can you smell the preparations of your neighbor’s kitchen? Her perfume? What about her mood? Dogs can smell emotions. Fear, joy, sadness. They can smell the passage of time. A scent doesn’t smell the same fresh or a day old. Afternoon doesn’t smell the same as morning, or night.

How much richer would your engagement with the world be if you allowed—trained, and developed—your other senses to contribute to your perception of it?

Lesson number five: Discover your senses. And, through them, rediscover your world all over again.

Thank you again, Vidya, for lending your space to my meanderings! And thank you, reader, for coming by, and for getting all the way through this way-too-lengthy dissertation born of my admiration for dogs and their approach to life. I hope you’ve found a bit of enlightenment here, some food for thought, at the very least something to make you chuckle. And I very much look forward to hearing your own thoughts and feedback in the comments. Have a wonderful, wonderful start to the week!

Well, I am grateful to YOU, Guilie, for the valuable lessons and the fantastic images–made with so much love and care.

My lovely readers, may I hear your applause for Guilie, please?

About Guilie, the author

The Zen of being more dog--It's about the dog. The dog book blog tour #Zen #dogs

Guilie Castillo, Mexican expat, writer, and dog rescuer, lives in Curaçao with eight extraordinary rescue dogs and an even more extraordinary man who puts up with them all. Her short fiction has been published both online and in print. Her first book, The Miracle of Small Things, a novel in stories, was published by Truth Serum Press in 2015. Her second book It’s About the Dog: The A-to-Z Guide for Wannabe Dog Rescuers (Everytime Press, April 2018), is a hands-on, less-tears-more-action, 100% practical introduction to dog rescue. It is also her first non-fiction foray. You’ll love her blogs: about dogs at Life In Dogs, and about everything else at Quiet Laughter.

The Zen of being more dog. The Dog Book Blog Tour

This post is a part of The Dog Book Blog Tour; during April and May, author and book will be making the rounds of dog-loving sites on the blogosphere to talk dogs and rescue—and to give away THREE signed copies! Every time you comment on a tour post your name will be put in a hat. On May 20th, the first-month anniversary of the book’s release, three names will be drawn from the hat and the winners announced at the tour’s closing post the next day. (More about both tour and giveaway here.) Come join us!

The Zen of being more dog--It's about the dog. The dog book blog tour #Zen #dogs

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The Zen of being more dog--It's about the dog. The dog book blog tour #Zen #dogs

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Guilie Castillo May 1, 2018 at 4:52 pm

Thank you so, so much, Vidya! I love being a part of this blog! Each of the posts you’ve hosted me for holds a special place in my heart… There was Mighty’s story, four (or more!) years ago, the Rescue is not for Sissies post, remember? I still read that and tear up (in a good way). Then there was the post to celebrate me and my partner’s anniversary… That one is also super, super special to me. And now this one. I don’t think I’ve ever written so extensively—and I do apologize for the extensiveness… I may have gone overboard this time, haha—about this, but it’s a cornerstone of my personal philosophy, and I can’t think of a better home for it. May it inspire others as well 🙂

Here’s to you, Vidya, and to the very best kind of friendships!

Vidya Sury May 2, 2018 at 1:39 pm

My pleasure, Guilie! Blessed to have you here. Excited about the book, too! Hugs. And why apologize for being awesome?

Guilie Castillo May 4, 2018 at 8:19 am

‘Awesome’… Vidya, you make me blush 🙂 Maybe next time I can try to be awesome in, say, 700 words? 🙂 But, you know, with the way you broke up the text with the images, it doesn’t even feel that long. I’m not sure how you did it, but the entire layout looks amazing. Thank you so, so much!

Lisa Pomerantz May 1, 2018 at 9:21 pm

Oh how i love this post! What a great approach to life – by being more DOG! Love this Vidya! <3 xoxo

Vidya Sury May 1, 2018 at 9:39 pm

Hugs, birthday girl! So happy to see you. Yes, I love the post too…solid attitude
Vidya Sury recently posted…You and Your Problems

Guilie Castillo May 4, 2018 at 8:04 am

I’m so glad, Lisa! Dogs have it figured out, don’t they? 😉 Thanks so much for coming by!

Jemima Pett May 2, 2018 at 9:36 pm

Brilliant, Guilie! Wonderful way to finish, Vidya. Maybe I should do the Zen of Guinea Pigs if I can borrow some of your ideas!

Vidya Sury May 2, 2018 at 10:02 pm

Now, I’d definitely love to read that, Jemima! Yes, I loved Guilie’s post. She is brilliant, isn’t she?

Guilie Castillo May 4, 2018 at 8:06 am

Thank you so much, Jemima! I’m glad you liked this—and, like Vidya, I’d *love* to read the Zen of Guinea Pigs! Maybe we should put out a call and do more animal-inspired Zen posts… Something to mull over, eh?

I’m so happy to see you here, Jemima. Thanks for coming by!

Lee @ Dragon'sEyeView May 2, 2018 at 9:54 pm

Woof! Woof! Woof! That was three cheers for Guilie! My favorite dog book every is called Bliss to You: Trixie’s Guide to Happy Life.

Guilie Castillo May 4, 2018 at 8:08 am

I’m going to look the book up, Lee—thank you for that! And thank you so much for the cheers (best cheers ever!) and the visit 🙂

Rachna May 3, 2018 at 8:04 am

This was such a wonderful read, Guille. As a fellow dog parent and lover, I could not agree more. Every lesson you shared is bang on. I just celebrated my boy’s 7th birthday yesterday and was reminiscing the joy he brings to me and my family every single day. I will surely check out your book and wish got good luck for it.

Thank you, Vidya, for having her here. I will be sure to follow her blog. Can never have enough of dog lovers.

Guilie Castillo May 4, 2018 at 8:15 am

How fabulous to connect with a fellow dog lover, Rachna! I agree; we most definitely need to stick together 🙂 Happy birthday to your boy—I’m so glad he has such a caring family. From the other side of the world, I raise a toast to a long life and perfect health for him, and many, many more years of joy with him for you.

Thanks so much for the good wishes for the book. It’s going to have a limited audience (how many people do you know who want to learn how to rescue?), but both the publisher and I were aware of this from the get-go, and it’s been less about reaching quantity than quality. If even one person is able to help a dog in need because they learned a few practical things from the book, then my job is done 🙂

I’m super pleased to meet you, Rachna, and will head over to visit your blog now. Thanks again!

Paige Burkes May 3, 2018 at 6:15 pm

I love how looking through life through the eyes of other animals helps us to see that things don’t have to be so complicated.

Guilie Castillo May 4, 2018 at 8:21 am

Yes! Sometimes all it takes is a step back, a change in perspective, and our lives jump into focus from a totally different angle.

Thanks so much for coming by, Paige! I’m glad you got something of value out of this.

Vinay Kumar Satyanarayan May 4, 2018 at 6:00 am

Real deep insight of not only dogs but also homo-sapiens.
Thank you lady!

Guilie Castillo May 4, 2018 at 8:24 am

Good point, Vinay—looking at life from an animal’s perspective, like Paige said above, can be a mirror that reflects back our own… well, maybe not ‘failings’, exactly, but… just things we could do better. Or do less (like worrying—scientists need to get cracking on isolating the worry gene so they can take it out of us, haha).

Thanks so much for the visit!

Debbie L Hampton May 4, 2018 at 5:48 pm

I love this post. Makes me smile. 🙂

We can learn a lot from all animal. After all, we are animals too!

Guilie Castillo May 5, 2018 at 10:23 pm

You are absolutely right, Debbie. I think if humans stopped categorizing ‘animal’ behavior as a negative, if we stopped considering ourselves above the fray, so to speak, we’d live happier lives.

I’m so glad you enjoyed the pos!

Elle Sommer May 5, 2018 at 4:02 pm

What a fun article Vidya and Guile – staying in joy definitely seems to be the way to go. Dogs definitely have the right idea. 🙂

Guilie Castillo May 5, 2018 at 10:24 pm

Glad to hear you liked this, Elle! Yep, Dog is the way 🙂

Happy weekend, and thanks for the visit!

Birgit May 6, 2018 at 8:07 pm

This is great and so many lessons we need as humans. Now my lesson is to see if I responded to Guile’s email during the Aa to Z. I love this!!

Guilie Castillo May 8, 2018 at 9:08 pm

Haha—Birgit, no worries! April is a crazy month all around 🙂 So glad you liked this!

Sandra Pawula May 8, 2018 at 12:49 am

Love these! Sounds much better to have a dog’s life!

Guilie Castillo May 8, 2018 at 9:08 pm

Gives new meaning to “Living like a dog,” right? 😉 Thanks for coming by, Sandra!

Inge | The Belgian Reviewer May 15, 2018 at 11:57 pm

We should all be a little more of a dog! This is such a lovely post!

Guilie Castillo May 23, 2018 at 4:46 am

I agree, Inge—and I’m so glad you liked this one!

BCP Veterinary Pharmacy September 14, 2019 at 5:49 pm

Couldn’t agree more!

Darla M Sands May 16, 2018 at 5:24 pm

What a great approach to life. And a lovely human being. Best wishes!

Guilie Castillo May 23, 2018 at 4:47 am

Thank you, Darla! I’m happy you enjoyed the post. So glad you came by!

Monika & Sam 🐾 May 16, 2018 at 7:52 pm

What a ‘pawsome’ post! Loved the video and those ‘wagnificent’ zen points. Well done and best wishes on the book tour!

Guilie Castillo May 23, 2018 at 5:00 am

‘Wagnificent’—love it! I’ll use it often in your honor, Monika 🙂 I’m so glad you liked the post! Thanks so much for coming by 🙂

KDKH May 16, 2018 at 9:19 pm

Very impressive. I’m starting to think about how I need to use more of my senses, like they do. My blind and deaf dog uses his nose to navigate and the vibrations in the floor to know the traffic around him. What do I need to do? The whole post was great food for thought. Thank you.

Guilie Castillo May 23, 2018 at 5:02 am

I’ve found, KDKH, that even just concentrating on one of my (other) senses for a little bit helps me discover new layers to the world around me. I’m so glad you found something to like here. Thanks for coming by!

Jacqui Murray May 23, 2018 at 6:11 am

This is my kind of post! Dogs dogs dogs, and then more dogs

pet store October 7, 2021 at 3:27 pm

Dogs will never lie. They don’t get mad at you and are always there for you. It’s not so bad to spoil them with good toys, food and accessories.
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