Dogs make the best Zen masters

Dogs make the best Zen masters

After a long day, Carole-Anne only needs to see the little heads of her dogs at the window to help her reconnect and be in the moment.

January 24, 2020

Carole-Anne’s job takes her on the road, where her days are hectic and she’s continually meeting new people—something which demands a lot of energy. Yet she carries it all off with a sense of calm. So how does she do it? What’s her secret? It's fairly straightforward: Carole-Anne knows that every night—regardless of how hectic her day has been—she will find her haven of peace with her dogs, Fergie and Nova. Together they have created a soothing environment. “My two dogs are always in the moment. They calm me. They make me feel Zen. They don’t sweat the small stuff. Every evening, our merry band goes out for a relaxing walk after we’ve all had our evening meal. Walking with my dogs in nature is an excellent form of meditation."

Carole-Anne has always preferred gentle methods to train Fergie, 12, and Nova, 4. "For instance, I ignore them when they exhibit negative behaviour; I do not validate it. Nor I do yell at them because that would serve no purpose whatsoever. What’s vitally important is consistency. The way I respond to them today is the same way I’ll respond to them tomorrow. I reinforce positive behaviours by offering them a reward. "

Carole-Anne and Nova at a canicross competition in 2017.

Obviously, the two dogs have their shortcomings. Fergie barks at the window and Nova jumps on people. "I’ve tried everything to help them curb such bad habits, but I’ve not been successful,” admits Carole-Anne, “So I’ve decided to accept their behaviour such as it is. If Nova jumps up on visitors, I simply apologize to them. Letting go is good for your mental health.”

Over the years, Carole-Anne has found a healthy balance in the way she cares for her two dogs. She is now reaping the benefits. By no means, however, is Carole-Anne resting on her laurels. Instead, she recently embraced a new challenge: "I've decided to adopt another dog. His name is Harry and he’s 9 years old.” So what prompted Carole-Anne to welcome into her home an older animal? "Harry was abandoned on the street. It breaks my heart to see an animal treated this way. I want to give him the chance to age gracefully, and with dignity, in a home where he’s loved and cared for.”

Tonight, as usual, Carole-Anne will recharge her batteries with her contemplative outdoor ritual. After dinner and the rejuvenating walk, the contented dog-owner will watch her three Zen masters fall asleep on the couch. She already knows that tomorrow will be another busy day, but these moments of peace and mindfulness will be enough to recharge her batteries.

Namaste everyone.

Cover photo: Catherin Arsenault.

Photo 1: personal collection

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