What I learned from my Dog (and my dogish cat.)
By Ian Alexander
There was a season in my life where I lived alone in a 1 bedroom apartment while working on my doctorate at Johns Hopkins University. It was on the whole a great time being independent, taking care of myself, and having the ability to focus on my work and studies. But it was also a bit lonely.
I had some good friends, and we did hang out, so I wasn’t isolated completely. But I had grown up in a family setting with people around all the time, so the times of being alone in my apartment could also be lonely.
Being alone can be good as it affords you time for introspection, prayer, and learning more about who you are. But it can also leave you time to stew on negative thoughts and emotions if you’re not careful. And those things can be like stepping into quicksand.
During those years, I did have my favorite cat of all times with me. He wasn’t a typical cat. No, he was what my daughter calls a “dogish” cat. He’d follow me around the apartment, talk when spoken to, beg for food, and basically always greet me with unconditional love, no matter how long I’d been away.
I didn’t realize what a blessing that was until he passed away after being my little buddy for about 16 years. What I’m saying is not news to anyone who’s owned and loved a pet. We know how they’re always there for us.
During those lonely nights working on my dissertation up at the wee hours of the night, my cat would sit on my lap and purr. When I’d come home late from an orchestra rehearsal and it was too late to call anyone just to chat before going to bed, my cat would come to the door, say hello, and rub himself all over my legs. He didn’t even eat when I fed him, he just wanted to be around me.
What a blessing to be loved so unconditionally. Sure, an animal is fairly simple intellectually and emotionally, but their love is not a bit less genuine than a human’s. In fact, sometimes it’s better. They accept us despite our flaws. They don’t get offended if we get so busy we forget to say hello, or play with them. They’re always ready to go. (Like Kangadog, my present writing office buddy.)
Makes me wonder: Am I ever such a blessing to my family, to my friends? Or am I full of conditions? IF I’m not too busy, IF I’m having a good day, IF it’s convenient enough, then I’ll take some time to be with you or hang out with you. Am I that way?
Knowing how it blessed me to have someone always there as my #1 fan, I wonder if I could ever be such an edifying presence in the lives of those whom I love.
We could all learn something from cats and dogs.
I’ll leave you with a saying I once heard, “Be the kind of person your dog thinks you are.”
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Winner of the 2011 International Book Awards, Joshua Graham writing as Ian Alexander, wrote this book at the request of his then 6-year old son who is a fan of The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, and Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind. The request yielded not only the first book ONCE WE WERE KINGS, but a series, the sequels of which will soon be released.
ONCE WE WERE KINGS is a Young Adult Fantasy novel, but has been enjoyed by thousands of readers worldwide from young adult to senior. It has been a #1 bestseller on two Religious Science Fiction & Fantasy lists on Amazon and is available in Kindle Edition and Hardcover Edition as well.