Most people who know me will define me as unconventional with a dash of weirdness. I have now learnt to embrace the quirky side of things, but growing up, it was a struggle. Relating to people (and other kids) was the bane of my existence; and things that were important to them I just wouldn’t understand. Everyone brushed it off as just being an introvert. It was an isolating experience, living in a world where no one got me and all I wanted was to be understood and accepted.
Things changed when I got my first dog. It was one of the best things to happen to me as a child - someone who could not relate to anything else, especially other humans. We welcomed our next little adoptee two years later. Both of them were polar opposites in terms of personalities. One came from chaos and one came straight from his mum’s loving paws. Nevertheless, they both taught me so much in life. They showed me simplicity. This is a foreign concept because of the fact that I'm human and everything is overly complex. Living with a dog has many benefits, but I’d like to highlight the biggest lessons that I’ve learnt from my little rays of sunshine:
1. It is important to find a way to get some downtime, whether it is getting some of that Vitamin D or even lying down in the grass. Getting out and absorbing the outdoors (in whatever capacity) can be extremely energising and grounding!
2. Making time to chase your tail, demanding pets, taking a nap, grooming yourself, etc. are different ways to take care of yourself. Self-care is all the hype, but apart from the trend, finding what it means for you (even if it isn't necessarily a part of the mainstream) is a great way to connect with yourself and your needs.
3. Food is the best part of the day! Getting the right food in your body not only makes you feel super happy but also energised enough for zoomies. Getting the right food for your pets is a priority for pet parents and finding new ways to make sure they are healthy (as well as getting treats and snacks) is a way of caring for them. In fact, showing yourself the same level of importance can definitely change how you prioritise yourself!
4. It’s no joke when your dog feels unsafe in certain situations or doesn’t trust a stranger on the get-go. No amount of luring them or giving them a false sense of security helps them warm up to people they don't really like. However, giving them the space to actually figure out how to feel safe and do their own thing helps develop trust. Trusting your gut and making sure you feel safe will only make you feel comfortable in such situations.
5. Be yourself no matter who's watching, whether it is drooling a puddle at the table or popping a squat in the middle of traffic. Be weird as long as you enjoy it. Needing to hide aspects of myself that I perceived as unacceptable is something that I thought I had to do a lot (side note: no, I am not a serial killer). But it is exhausting to walk on those eggshells trying to please everyone. Trying to be more authentic has made me feel more connected to people, and most importantly, myself!
6. Sniff everything, stick your head in things you want to know more about, being curious just makes things more exciting. My dog loves all kinds of animals, be it a squirrel or a cat, or even the corner lamp post. He will always be so excited to explore it again. I find myself getting stuck when I sense even a hint of discomfort, be it a relationship or a job or a friendship that runs its course. But the curiosity of seeing that every interaction is so starkly different makes it exciting to explore. That doesn't mean that getting burnt once wont equate to not getting burnt again, but it does make things seem more versatile and exciting.
7. Being consistent about the things that give you joy are worth it. My dog is like clockwork. He is a chill boy but will lurk around when it’s time for dinner or when his cat friends come to the door. He is always consistent with himself. I struggle with consistency sometimes; there are days when I am too tired and end up not doing things that make me feel good. Once in a while, cutting yourself some slack is completely fine, but the point of doing these things is to do them because they make you feel good. There is no real alternative for showing up for yourself and giving yourself consistency.
8. Dogs do not fake how they feel. If you were unkind to them they just learn to walk away and find some other goodness. Giving yourself the leeway to walk away from situations or people who are unkind to you can definitely make things feel lighter. Prioritising yourself so you have the capacity to love when you are feeling your best is something to think about.
9. Getting excited when you meet dogs/people you like as well as checking on people who matter to you and shower them with love and kisses. Celebrating the people around you who bring out the best in you is a gamechanger. Making time for them and showing them affection always makes you feel stronger and better in that relationship.
10. Making mistakes and upsetting people may happen even when you don't intend to; so feel what you feel, give yourself a break, try to make things better and move on. My dog sometimes indulges in mischief but he always feels bad when he makes a mistake, takes accountability and ends up making amends for them (with lots of puppy eyes). I feel like trying to make amends and learning to forgive yourself when mistakes are made. But trying to move on and live beyond a mistake is something that I’ve not mastered but I am still learning.
Being a human is so complex. But if it's any consolation, I learnt how to enjoy the simple things that I otherwise would not give so much importance to. Seeing myself the way my dog sees himself gives me the breath of fresh air that I need.
Meet The Author
Malvika has completed her Masters in Clinical Psychology and is also an Animal Assisted Therapist and Arts Based Therapist. Her work mainly focuses on emotional and social needs. She incorporates Person Centred Approach, REBT and CBT in her therapy sessions. She believes that there should be a balance between conventional and non-conventional psychology techniques. Apart from therapy sessions and counselling, she is also actively involved in developing workshops and awareness-building seminars.
Malvika Lobo, Psychologist