As most of the country prepares to break out of lockdown, Lucy Corry shares the lessons she learned from an unlikely teacher.
During New Zealand’s first blockade in 2020, I was subjected to a sustained and highly targeted marketing campaign. Every day the other members of my household looked at me with their imploring puppy eyes and said, “Can we please get a dog?”
These two had studied their audience of one and knew exactly what would work. Spoiler alert: we have a dog. Here’s Cosmo, the spoodle in those cute puppy days (when his adoration made it a bit easier to deal with the ‘accidents’ indoors and being woken up four times a night).
I’d like to say that owning a reluctant dog has made me a better person, or made me exercise more, or any of those other lies that people tell themselves about having a pet. But as I sit here, tossing a wet, half-chewed tennis ball for me to chase from one end of the room to the other, I realize that I have learned a thing or two from my constant companion.
Here are the five life lessons of confinement from Cosmo:
Exercise is important, especially exercising outdoors.
There’s nothing like a little bout of self-isolation to make you realize how great it is to be able to go outside. My favorite coping mechanism is to go for a run only early in the morning, when there are no cars on the roads and no people to dodge. Having a dog means that you have to leave the house, even when your personal motivation, or the motivation of the other members of the bubble, is low. Everyone feels better after a walk, including the dog.
Everybody needs alone time
There is a room in our little house where there is no Wifi. And no one. Coincidence? It is also the place where the dog likes to go and hang out alone, snuggle between the sofa cushions, and sunbathe. It is a very quiet place to sit, without devices. Of course, once you’re there, it’s not long before everyone in the house realizes where you are and wants to be there, too, but five minutes of solitude is very restorative.
Eat the best you can, but don’t overdo it
If there is ever a time to focus on food, it is now. It may be tempting to live from one chocolate chip cookie or chewy chicken strip to the next, but the right meals are a better way to punctuate the day. Treats are important for mental well-being, but try to save them as a reward for good work or good dog behavior.
Do not be put off
Unbrushed hair? Dirty feet? A little stinky? It may take a while before any of us go out with other people, but that is no reason to abandon our usual standards. You don’t have to do it with Hilary Barry, but rest assured, no one likes sharing the couch with a stinky dog or a teenager. A little brushing and washing now will also save you a dog groomer / groomer conference later.
Nobody likes a dog that barks
In other words, don’t make a pointless spiel because you are upset about something. Incessantly barking is the dog version of being a keyboard warrior on social media. It puts everyone in a bad mood and accomplishes nothing. If there’s a tennis ball taunting you under the couch, no barking will change it. In other words: don’t complain, act!