In which my pugs teach me about mindfulness
Sebastien Pug with his duck careen across the room, plopping down on the oversized circular dog bed at the far end.
“He’s out of control!”, Sonya would say.
Sebastien is 4 years old and going through the human-equivalent of his teenage angst years. His eyes are fearsome, rolled back as he vigorously shakes his head from side to side as he subdues his Made in China prey.
He probably doesn’t even know why he does this. His ancestral brain pushes aside millennia after millennia of domestication in these moments, moments that pass in less than a minute.
It’s different this time and when he comes around there is a mass of white stuffing strewn about. He picks up he half-empty carcass and jumps up onto the sofa, settling next to me and where I’ve been watching all of this unfold (unstuff). He looks up at me – cliché puppy dog eyes – and back down at Ducky. He paws at it a few times.
It doesn’t move.
In fact, it has never moved. Ducky as prey has only ever existed in his pre-domesticated wild imagination but in this moment of clarity he only knows that his favorite toy has been destroyed. He whimpers and looks up at me again but I’m at a loss for words.
There are times I regress to my own primal brain. I’ve even destroyed my toys during such outbursts. Sonya can tell of the times I’ve thrown tools across a garage during not-so-smooth car repairs, or the time I slammed a locked-up laptop shut and threw it into a freezer (it was hot!). Fortunately these incidents occur less and less frequently as I’ve begun to pay attention to my own emotions, to learn what triggers me and to become more mindful in those moments.
Mindfulness in everyday life has given me strength and control without having to completely repress my feelings. It is a means to process them rather then cave in to them.
But how do I pass along this concept of mindfulness to an addled pug puppy who, in the scant span of me making the connection between his behavior and mine, has already moved on to chasing a bug across the floor and then to pouncing upon one of his sleeping sisters in an attempt to stir up a playmate? Tasha is now in a similar state of primordial rage as she chases and chews his butt off across the kitchen floor.