The Four Agreements: Impressions

Book review of The Four Agreements – by Don Miguel Ruiz

I read The Four Agreements after receiving it as a loaner from a colleague. He told me how he read this book while on a flight, and that he loved it so much he read it three more times on the same trip, and that it had helped transform his life. That is pretty hefty praise for such a little book, so I humbly sat down with it this weekend, wondering what precious gems it had offered that transformed the life of my older, wiser colleague.

The Four Agreements was a quick read at only 138 pages, and took me less than a few hours to get through. The chapters of this book are laid out in logical sequence, with each lesson building on its predecessor, and the concepts are simple to understand.

I noticed immediately that there is a religious overtone in the message, which alerted my skepticism as to the content right away. Anytime I see that faith is a part of the basis of a lesson that someone is trying to teach, I become irrevocably skeptical and the logic in me demands to see proof behind the claims that are being made. This book was no different. In his prose, Ruiz comes off as an expert on the subject of how best to live your life, and he bases this in the teachings of the ancient Toltec society, but without much further context to provide credibility to the finality of his statements.

Whatever position you take on matters of religion and spirituality, though, it is possible to accept what you can believe, and simply read between the lines of the rest while setting judgment aside. I am someone who doesn’t believe in ‘god,’ but I can still appreciate that believing in something bigger than ourselves is helpful to many people, and that the philosophy behind the faith often still holds some important messages on how we can strive to live our lives in a good way.

So I continued reading, ignoring the statements that ‘God is in everything,’ ‘God is life,’ etc., etc.. The efficacy of any self-help book is going to depend on the openness of the mind who reads it, and how ripe your mind is for incorporating a new philosophy, so I put aside those points that I immediately disagreed with the author on, and focused on what I could gain from this book. In taking note of the lessons therein, rather than passing judgment on the religious aspects of the book, I resolved to take the lessons for what they are and what they can do for me, and leave the rest.

Thankfully, the lessons offered are sound.

 

Some of the primary takeaways of this book are that you should practice trusting yourself (because you are already the perfect version of you), learn to communicate in a healthy and positive way, and not allow others to influence your own personal happiness. That all sounds like good advice, right? I think so, but I remained lost in the author’s presentation as an expert, someone who has already somehow transcended human suffering. If the statement is ‘do this and don’t do that, then your life will be transformed,’ sorry, not sorry, but I am going to need quite a bit more convincing than these short chapters offer.

Ruiz claims with conviction that if you let go of your self-limiting beliefs, understand that others’ judgments of you are a result of their own unique belief system that actually has nothing to do with you whatsoever, then you can achieve personal freedom and happiness. Whatever you think is holding you back in life is only in your own mind, so release those chains, put your best effort into everything you do, and you will be happy.

All of these things are easier said than done. Of course many of us have heard that practicing forgiveness will have endless positive benefits, but that doesn’t mean that we can simply hear that and then forgive those people who have harmed us. Forgiveness is a journey that is unique to each situation, and true forgiveness will not come overnight. To this, Ruiz says just do your best. According to Ruiz, if you always do your best, then you will see that guilt and self-doubt have no place to settle down in your life.

If you are seeking a new strategy to the way you live your life, and don’t mind that you will only learn what to do, but not how to do it, then give this book a try. If you are not wholeheartedly ready to accept a new philosophy on life, or you will expect to see supporting facts to back up the claims of this new philosophy, you may want to pass this one by.

If nothing else, this book provides a good reminder to live your life with integrity, don’t be your own worst enemy (as we so often are), and do all that you do with love.

How To Make a Wedding Chalkboard

How to create a wedding chalkboard without stencils

Ahh it feels good to be back here! Things have been so hectic around here being in two weddings on back-to-back weekends, and I’ve barely had a moment to sit down and relax, so I am very grateful to be back here writing today.

It has been a cool, wet fall day in Edmonton today, and we got our first snow! I know I just posted recently about loving September and looking forward to fall, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still a shock when the snowflakes start falling so shortly after the hot, summer days. That, combined with lots of rain and a cold, grey sky has made for one of those days where people tend to just want to lay low, not exert themselves too much, and get home as quickly as possible.

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The view from my window today

It’s harder to crawl from slumber on fall days like these, and usually I just want to stay warm and dry at home and be cozy (thinking I’m not alone here). If I must go out, I will spend half the day thinking about the exact way I’m going to relax when I get home (such is the lucky life of middle age without children!).

My ultimate way to relax in the evening on a day like today is to have a hot shower right upon returning home, to warm up from the dampness of the day that so often sticks in our bones, cook up some simple comfort food, and settle in with a book, under a blanket and near a window. If it is not too cold to open the window so I can smell and really listen to the rain, all the better, an inclination which, I’m sure, comes from having spent my childhood in Vancouver.

Luckily, we actually had great weather for my BFF’s wedding this past weekend! It was a tad windy and a little chilly at night, being outdoors, but I had no problem staying warm after a few beverages, and the setting was gorgeous, check it out:

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I loved that little blue house across the lawn and wish I had gotten a better photo of it, it would be so gorgeous in black and white, too!

As usual when you are planning or are in a wedding, the days leading up to the big finale are littered with a multitude of tasks as you work to ensure that everything has been thought of and nothing is not where it is expected to be. Now I have to say that I felt like I got off easy on a lot of the planning and didn’t have that many responsibilities, but what I did have I was more than happy to do, and I wanted to share part of that today – the chalkboard!

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How To Make a Wedding Chalkboard

Step One: Set up and gather your materials

Find yourself a chalkboard and set it up on an easel (or wherever will work for you with what you have available). You will also need chalk, a cup of water, a very slightly damp cloth, and some q-tips.

Step Two: Gather your inspiration photos.

This sucks to admit, but I’m not really great at coming up with creative ideas out of thin air. So I get along by looking at a variety of images, and combining different elements together into one brand new whole. Have some photos handy for reference if you’d like (you can take a screenshot so you can just look through your photo gallery so you’re not constantly switching between websites). For font ideas, I like to use this free font website.

The unofficial theme for the wedding was tandem bikes, and the groom is an avid mountain biker, so I loved blending that into the wedding theme.

Step Three: Space things out

Make a few marks that you will remove later on to help guide the size of your lettering and graphics. This step is key to ensuring things don’t look squished when you’re finished.

Step Four: Key element outline

If you intend to have more elements to your chalkboard than just a straight-written quote, it’s a good idea to map out some guidelines as to how you want things to sit. You can draw out the basics of your graphic at this stage, too, and all of this will also help with keeping things proportionate later on.

Step Five: Outline your lettering

This is a good place to be able to practice your free flow writing, which can take practice to get the hang of. It doesn’t need to be perfect at this stage, but you want to ensure that you have the right loops and angles that you are looking to achieve in the finished product. (Yes the ‘u’ is supposed to be there – it’s the Canadian way!)

Step Six: Trace out where you want the writing to be thicker, then fill it in from the top down

While you are still outlining, clean the board as you go along only just enough to visualize where your lines need to be. This is the stage when I will use a dry paintbrush to clean up the edges, but the paintbrush will leave a fair bit of dust behind. Allow yourself to rest your hand on the board for stability as you are writing and don’t worry about smudging what is below, you can clean that part up when you get there. You should blow instead of rub the excess chalk away as much as possible, which will reduce your touch-up work later.

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Step Seven: Use your finger to clean up the edges

I find that it makes a big difference if, in addition to starting with a very clean board, you lightly squeeze the damp cloth with your fingertips before rubbing away the bigger patches of dust. You don’t want your fingers to be wet (chalk is much harder to remove if applied to a wet chalkboard), you just want to avoid your finger being dry and covered in dust from the last spot you touched up as that will only spread the dust around.

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Step Eight: Use a q-tip to clean up the areas that require more precision

This can work with both a wet or a dry q-tip. I recommend just a drop of water on one end and keeping the other end dry, as sometimes the wet end will leave streaks that you can then easily wipe away with the dry end. Experiment and find what works for you.

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Step Nine: Create a sharpened edge on your chalk and work on the graphic details

To make myself a sharper edge for the finer details of the graphic, I started filling in the banner until I had plenty of edge around the circumference of the chalk to work with. Again, work your way from the top down and left to right, and once the basics are there, do your touching up.

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Step Ten: Outline and begin filling in the banner

I googled chalkboard banners to get a good idea for the type of banner I wanted, and started by outlining the main sash of it followed by the tails.

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Step Eleven: Finish the banner tails and lettering

For the inside of the tail ends, just smudge the chalk with your finger until you get the desired result – this is a great way to add a 3d effect to your banner.

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Blow over the board and remove any excess dust that you can, and Voila!

Remembering 13

As a social worker, my whole career centres around building working relationships with a wide variety of people. Whether I’m at the office or in clients’ homes, I’m always navigating unique and dynamic relationships and taking on many different roles (spouse, sister, friend, colleague, social worker, employee). On many days I have returned home marveling at the complexity and uniqueness of people and their relationships, and how amazing it is to get to witness these sagas and ‘character developments’ that unfold around us. We get to analyze, learn from, and be inspired by them, and that is a gift.

Most days my work is heavily centred around spending time with young people, getting to know them, and learning how best to help them navigate their own relationships and deal with the shit hands that they’ve been given, always with the hope that I am helping them towards a best possible outcome.

The thirteen (going on sixteen) year old that I hung out with this afternoon reminded me what it was like to be thirteen and what a crazy stressful time in life it is. Many people cringe when thinking of adolescence, yet it can still be so easy to forget what it was like to live in a thirteen year old’s body and world, and how real and intense everything feels in those moments.

It can seem like no matter to brush off their moods and drama, because you know that it will pass and that what happens in junior high typically has little consequence in the big picture. But they don’t know that, and you will be hard pressed to convince them if you try.

At just thirteen, a child’s mind has just recently expanded from the safe world of home and family into this new awareness of the outside world and all the vast and complicated relationships that come with it. Of course, for many foster children, they are forced out of that safety much too soon, if there was ever any to begin with, having a tremendous impact on their development as they are forced to deal with circumstances that their brains are not yet capable of comprehending (and sometimes that is for the better). I ramble, but the point is that it is the natural progression of things that around nine or ten years old children’s primary focus begins to turn from being primarily centred around family, towards peers and the bigger world.

Adolescence is a natural time of turmoil and it is a time where a significant amount of guidance can be required. It may even be the most needed time for guidance, since they have for the first time developed enough abstract thinking ability that they can begin to explore and create kind of person they want to become. With time, patience, understanding, and some kind words, you can have life changing conversations with your kids at this age. For some, the memories made in adolescence remain some of the strongest for life, since over time we will have rethought them and rethought them some more, trying to understand how they shaped us. So seek out those teaching moments (better yet, don’t wait until thirteen, just start finding those teaching moments right away).

Understand that it is not her fault that he’s/she’s dramatic. In adolescence kids’ brains experience huge growth in the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that manages executive functioning. Executive functioning includes those activities in the brain that lead the processes of  problem solving, organization, emotional control, and learning to work towards longer term goals. So the part of the brain that we become so frustrated with is literally under construction. This means patience is needed (just like dealing with road construction – ugh!).

At that age and developmental stage, they may believe that their friends now will be their friends for life (or conversely, that if they have few friends now that they will always have few friends), not comprehending just how much growth and change they have ahead of them. This is normal! Lifelong friendships do happen for some, but they will vary over time, they don’t happen for all, and they all will eventually end.

In a thirteen year old’s world, though, none of that matters. In junior high every child learns to weigh their self worth against others and to judge their peers likewise by who they associate with and how. This is our teaching moment!

Alas, when you try to explain to them why they should let go of other’s judgments and just work on creating the life they want, you may find yourself met with an off-pitch cry of ‘you don’t understand!’

Well, their worries need our attention, too. Even if you see them as no matter of significance, what is significant in that developing mind and how they work with that concept may have any degree of impact on their future self As much as you think you may know your children, they will all grow into independent human beings who will make their own decisions. So listen, and help them to come to their own resolutions so they can develop the self-efficacy to get through life right side up.

Us older and wiser folk know that they will most certainly make friends later, and that whatever the problem is, it is most likely just a stage. But brushing off their concerns is only going to make them feel like you don’t care. Relationships are tough, man, and we are forever entwined in them, for better or for worse. Nobody can pretend that wading through relationship muck isn’t hard af work sometimes, so as parents and mentors we owe it to our teens to help them understand how to they can learn to cope in this crazy, constantly shifting world.

It’s important to teach children to determine right from wrong, and to instill a sense of work ethic and accountability in them. If they have made a grave mistake, then by all means that gravity should be impressed upon them to encourage them to learn from their mistake. I am not in any way saying that young people don’t need firmness, responsibility, and boundaries.

But it is also important to give them a break. Understand their development and current capacity for what you are asking of them before allowing yourself to forget that making mistakes and learning to navigate relationships in adolescence is just par for the course.

Celebrating Half Birthdays

Yes, 1/2 birthdays are a thing!

A couple days ago I got to enjoy the most wonderful surprise – out of nowhere my fiance showed up in the living room with presents for me for my half birthday! I got a nice, fluffy new body pillow that I totally needed, a Sephora gift card, and a couple of my favourite bath products. (I haven’t gotten into the habit of photo documenting my life yet so, sorry, I don’t have pictures!)

Although we’ve celebrated half birthdays in the past, we only did it once and I completely forgot about them this year so it was a great little surprise!

I’m sharing because I think everyone should consider surprising a loved one (or even just someone you know who could use some cheering up) with this fun mini celebration, and I’ll tell you why.

Particularly the very first time that you celebrate someone’s half birthday, you can expect to get a pretty awesome reaction. I was brought to tears at how sweet and thoughtful it was since there was no reason at all for him to give me a gift other than remembering one particular day which I wouldn’t have even noticed had passed.

Most people don’t have a clue when their half birthday is, so this is a big part of what makes it great. Surprise gifts are always better given than gifts that come with expectation or from obligation. To be sure, I absolutely love giving presents for regular birthdays and for Christmas, but a half birthday is just a bit sweeter somehow, and there are all kinds of reasons to celebrate it.

Anyone who is in a relationship could benefit from doing this, even (and especially) if it’s not every year. It can be a one time thing you do to show some affection just because, and there’s no commitment to celebrate every single year as there is with Christmas and birthdays. If you do celebrate it every year that is totally fun too, but at some point people will start to remember the date and it could come to be an expectation. I suggest skipping some years and keeping the surprise factor!

If you’re single with a love interest, a carefully chosen gift at an unexpected time could be just the break you’re waiting for.

If your birthday falls on a major holiday like Christmas or even if it falls on the same day as someone else’s birthday who you don’t care to share it with, you could decide to celebrate your half birthday instead! (Does anybody actually like having a Christmas birthday?)

You can even use it as an excuse to just throw a party, and decorate with the ‘half’ theme, like making half cookies or serving a half birthday cake, for example.

If you want to have some fun and give this a try, you’ll need to first determine the date, which is actually slightly trickier than it sounds. There are a few different ways you can approach it:

  1. The simplest way is to add 6 months to their actual birthday. This way, as my birthday is March 5th, my half birthday became September 5th.
  2. To accurately calculate the exact date, you need to add 182.5 days to the birth date. (counting days on the calendar seems pretty tedious, so I’ve never done it this way)
  3. Check out this half birthday calculator for the exact date with leap years factored in. This site tells me September 3rd.

But the date is not what is important, really, and it’s not the gifts either. The point is that you are taking the time to show someone that you love them, in whatever way you choose, for no reason other than that you want to make them smile.

You could bake them a cake, give them a nice card that you have personally written to them in, or take them out for dinner or a favourite activity. You could finally finish a task that they’ve been nagging you about. Just think of whatever would be special to that person and do that.

 

Taking the time to think of them is an expression of love, and I fully believe in making sure that you take the time in life to show people that you love them, and putting in the effort to make fond memories with those people. When you show your love and appreciation for others, it strengthens the bonds you hold with them.

You are letting them know that to you, they are someone really special who is worth thinking of, and that is always a worthwhile effort.

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”

– Maya Angelou

 

 

Has anyone else here celebrated some half birthdays? If you have, share how it went and what you did! If not, are you considering it now?

The Beauty of September

Summer has come to a close and autumn is on our doorstep.

While there are some I know who regret the coming of September as it reminds them that the long, care-free days of summer have passed for another year, I just can’t fathom entering this time of year without the sense of calm grounding that stirs in me every year at this time. For me, September signifies growth. Outwardly, as we look once again to our goals and recommit to them, and inwardly, as we subconsciously root down once again to our work.

Sure, I love summer, too. I love getting outdoors under the hot sun, checking out the festivals and the midways, and taking road trips to the Canadian Rockies. I love to be able to sit out in the backyard on warm summer mornings with a cup of coffee and bask in the quiet morning light.

Still, summer is always full of commitments. We jam the long days full of social events and outdoor activities, always trying to take advantage of what few days of summer we have to enjoy. It often means long, fulfilling days away from home, camping or traveling, living out of our cars and suitcases for a time, getting back to nature, and making lifelong memories.

By the time September does roll around though, I am ready to buckle down and get back to routine. I am ready to have some weekends to myself again and to reorganize our lives after the chaos of summer. As the sultry days of summer pass by, I begin to miss my cozy sweaters and the cool, fresh air. There is even a tiny part of me in this moment of time that looks forward with excitement rather than dread to the clean beauty of a fresh snowfall sure to surprise us any week now.

Every September I find myself reflecting on my younger years when fall meant going back to school, and wading in this nostalgia is a huge part of the draw. The end of summer and going back to school meant new clothes, new supplies, and reconnecting with friends. As kids we would walk to catch our bus down the quarter-mile driveway, passing a half-harvested garden on the right, surrounded by trees that had by now turned to an inspiring variety of golds and reds. Unchaining the long iron gate, we would stand, facing the stead in front of us, but really looking to our right a mile down the straight dirt road until we could see the dust of the coming bus beyond the hilltop. In those first few days of school, everything is fresh, and it always feels like this year is going to be the best one yet.

When I was in university the coming of fall meant I had new classes to take that would help me to propel my career and broaden my mind, and I would gain renewed purpose and responsibility in my days. In these years I would get to buy brand new books, and I could splurge on office supplies (love!), and I knew that the relationships and networks that I would build in the coming year would be of the kind that could last a lifetime.

These days, I am no longer in school (though in my mind, we never really stop being students), and yet I am always brought back to the sentiments of the years that passed before, and it is as though my soul is breathing in the cool air as an elixir of life. After having overwhelmed my senses during the long summer days, the changes of autumn signal a settling of mind and spirit into the routine of success. I look forward every year to the gold leaves and clear blue sky, writing fresh new notes, having interesting new topics and chapters to study, and building up to the excitement and glimmer of Christmas ❤

It’s fulfilling to share that there is something particularly special to me about the new books, pens, paper, and journals that are procured at this time of year, as my sentiment wouldn’t be complete without its mention. A fresh new journal or unmarked notebook is one of my very favourite small pleasures in life. It is an open canvas for learning and reflection and has so much potential within its blank pages, just waiting to be turned into something more. Every time you open up a new notebook to pen it for the first time, you set a purpose, for those pages and for yourself. I just love that feeling, it truly makes my soul sing.

This September, as I begin the merge on to the next great path in my life, I’m going to savour these calm moments of reverence and nostalgia and make use of the renewed focus that the changing of the seasons has offered me. My life is going to change in these coming years, so I am going to appreciate this time of quiet and peace and renew my dedication to how I want to shape my future. I may not ever know by what serendipity things have come together for me this year out of them all, but it feels just right, and there is nowhere in my life I’d rather be right now than this September of 2017.

 

Appreciating Motherhood

Let’s just be happy that we’re all on this journey, k?

So I read a post recently written by a woman who declared that mothers are tired because they often manage all or most of the details involved in running a household. She described how all these little things she keeps track of add up to a lot more than some may think. She was a stay at home mom who noted that her husband helps with some things, and her message was that she is very tired due to her mental load.

After reading I thought to myself, “That’s nice, she seems to be working really hard to ensure her husband and kids have a good life full of lots of positive experiences. Good for her for taking some time to reflect that she is taking on a lot. She’s allowing herself to be proud of what she does and recognize all of those many little things, while also acknowledging that she has this in common with many other women. She’s letting other people know she’s not alone. It’s awesome that she has this awareness because now she can do something about it if she wants. I like how she articulated it in a way that described facts about her own life, without generalizing or judging, and although she clearly says she’s tired, she still manages to come off like she doesn’t hate her life for it. Good for her.”

I was shocked to read the comments on this post! People judged her very harshly, making wry comments that she shouldn’t complain as it’s her own fault, that if she hates her life she should do something about it, and comments from dads who were offended by her position on the subject (despite that she clearly stated she was not generalizing and that she knows that there are other men who do more of the share of this unpaid work).

I just do not understand the need to judge other people’s lives so harshly, as if any one of us has all the right answers?! Why not just see the good in people and recognize that she is expressing her feelings about her life, which is perfectly fine? It’s great, in fact, that she has found this way to get her thoughts, feelings, and opinions out into the world. If that’s what makes her feel good, then why not? Why should anyone care anyway?

All of this got me thinking though, and I wondered where I stood on the matter of roles and responsibilities in a family, as a woman in her early 30s preparing for marriage and motherhood.

Well, it seems to me that a lot of women actually like to ‘wear the pants’ and manage the house! Although I definitely think there are some men somewhere who can do it really well, it is more commonly seen that women take on the bulk of this work in a household, often without their partners even fathoming the intricacies of all that they do.

This is where the conversation typically turns to a discussion about gender roles, and many will argue that the old-fashioned views of women needing to manage the household is unfair and that we should change the way we think about these responsibilities.

But doesn’t it also seem like many women also just prefer to do it? Isn’t it maybe that many (not all) of us women can’t wait to be moms and get to do all those things?

Don’t many women enjoy doing the organizing, the keeping the kids fed and ready to meet the world, getting to shop and decide what products everyone uses, taking pride in a clean home, getting to plan for success and enjoy the love that they cultivate within their family?

I understand that for some it’s not that they want to take on so many tasks, rather it’s that if they don’t plan it or manage it then it might not get done, or it will be done in such a way that ruins other plans or takes more time to fix than it would have to have just done it themselves. That makes it hard to delegate, which could understandably lead to frustrated exhaustion.

I’m sure that a lot of the time it’s that mothers do like doing a lot of these things, they just wish they had more help with it or that their partner enjoyed it as much as they do, and so they are again frustrated and exhausted.

But it is okay to admit that you are tired! Recognize it and do something about it!

Even with all these frustrations, I still believe in the importance of appreciating what you have and enjoying that time while it lasts, because you only get to do it for a fraction of a lifetime. Although you will be a parent forever, your children will grow and you will enter a new phase of your life. I am determined to make the most of raising a family and being a wife, because I can’t see how life would be tolerable if I didn’t look to the good as much as possible and as often as I can.

So I’ll be tired. I’ll be tired from making memories for the whole family. Still, time will pass and life will change but the memories will last forever.

I know that mine sounds like a pretty rosy picture and that eventually I will have to work to keep this perspective. I know that it won’t feel great all the time and sometimes it might feel awful. I might need to really push myself sometimes to remember what a gift I have. And when I need to, I will.

I’m not even a mother yet but I am so aware that we can never know how much time is left with a person or how your life will change, so we need to cherish the time that we do have and make the most of it, no matter the circumstance. Learning to feel happy with what you do have even when things are shitty? Who wouldn’t want that?

I also know there will of course be many women who read this and think, “But I don’t love all those things!” That is more than fine. Do your best to make your life the one you want to live.

As for me, I can’t wait to try raising good little humans and getting to do it all with my very best friend.

I’m saying I know it is going to be hard, but I also know that I am choosing to do it because at the end of the day, this is the life I’ve signed up for, and I’m creating the life I choose.

“Learn to appreciate what you have, before time makes you appreciate what you had.”

–  unknown

5 Great Ways to Celebrate National Dog Day

National Dog Day exists to celebrate all the dogs who are always there for us with big smiles, exposed bellies, and quirky little attitudes.

Happy National Dog Day!

Before we begin, please meet my handsome boy, Tucker!

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Tucker is a five year old Boston Terrier/Pug cross, also known as a ‘Bugg’

National Dog Day exists to celebrate all the dogs who are always there for us with big smiles, exposed bellies, and quirky little attitudes.  Today we appreciate everything that dogs do in our world to keep us safe, happy, and feeling loved. We extol those who rescue humans from burning buildings, those who lead the blind, those who comfort the downhearted, and every one of the furry and not-so-furry little canines who warm our hearts and bewitch our souls. Colleen Paige, who founded National Dog Day in 2004, would also remind us on this day to think about all those loveable dogs who are just waiting for a good family to adopt them and give them a fresh start in life.

Dogs are our most beloved companions and life just wouldn’t be worth living without them, so in recognition of this worthy day, here’s a list of 5 awesome things you can do to celebrate (hu)man’s best friend:

  1. Mix some extra treats into his breakfast

    A few treats crumbled up and blended into his food will make for an extra scrumptious breakfast. If you’re trying to help your furry pal to lose some weight and don’t want to give any extra treats, sub the food reward with a relaxed morning belly rub. Better yet, do both! Fun fact: when a human and their dog are having a pet session, their cortisol (the ‘stress’ hormone) levels are reduced, and they both get a boost of the ‘love’ hormone, oxytocin, which helps develop the strong bond we know occurs between pets and their humans.

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    Tucker LOVES to find a few little nuggets of doggie treats in his dish in the morning!

     

     

     

  2. Spend some time grooming him

    Now I know that not all dogs love baths, and some downright hate them. In my case, Tucker knows he can’t get his chubby butt out of the tub once he’s in there, so he will usually just sit there like a good boy until it’s over (though it wasn’t always that easy). If that’s not your dog’s idea of a good time, that’s okay, because it’s what comes next that gets really good. Although we’re not always happy to find our pets rolling in the dirt, we have all seen the pure joy of a clean dog getting outside and wiggling around in the grass. This, provided that a good sunny patch of grass can be found, should be worth the bath (and honestly, as long as he’s not rolling in a mud pit, this is not going to undo the whole bath you just gave him). At the end of the day, his coat will be so soft you’ll want to cuddle him all night long.

     

     

     

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    If you or your dog aren’t up for a bath-time adventure, you could opt to have his nails done. Whether you (carefully) clip your dog’s nails at home, or you take him on a car ride to your local groomer, your pet appreciates having neatly trimmed nails (this is true even if they hate the process of getting them done) – especially if you have hardwood or laminate flooring in your home!

  3. Do some obedience training or teach him a new trick

    Dogs love the attention, praise, and positive reinforcement (read: treats and snuggles) that come with training, and training is a great way to engage their minds and bodies while also strengthening your bond with them. You will also both benefit from either making progress towards building better manners (a well-trained dog is a happy dog), or having a cute new trick to show off the next time company comes over.

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    Sitting like a good boy!

     

  4. Go for a long walk

An obvious must, this day and every day! Getting to go on a nice, long walk with their favourite human where they can sniff the breeze to their heart’s content is ultimate bliss for dogs, as well as being absolutely vital to their happiness and well-being.

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5. Give him a new bone or toy

Pick him up a new bone, one that you know he will love. He’ll be happier than a kid in a candy store to settle in with a new bone after the excitement of a busy day. And again, if you want to limit the amount of food treats you give to your dog, there are always alternatives! I like to bring Tucker to the pet store and let him pick out his own new toys.

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Many of us could stand to learn a thing or two from our dogs, and to me the biggest take away is to enjoy the little things in life. A dog takes pleasure in some of the simplest things in life – sunshine, food, sleep. They experience such potent happiness when faced with the simple pleasures of a dog’s life. How great would it be if we could do the same for our own lives?

Can you adopt a dog who is in need of a loving home? If you can, there’s no better time than the present to welcome a new loyal friend into the family! If you’re not in a position to provide a great new life for a pup, please consider making a donation to your local animal rescue society.