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Top 3 Life Lessons Only My Dog Could Teach Me

by Travis Day |  | 13 comments

I was your typical teenager, I thought I knew everything, I was pretty moody, self absorbed and mad at the world for being so unfair. I had a lot of growing up to do and god knows I wasn’t going to do it on my own. Through divine intervention or maybe coincidence, my mom eventually moved to Oregon leaving me the family puppy. I was 18 and irresponsible with no idea what direction to go. I’ll never forget the first night we spent alone in my one bedroom apartment, just me and Russ, my 20 lb Jack Russell Terrier. It was just a couple of dudes against the unfair world.
Fast forward to today, 11 years later, and it’s still just me and Russ but the world no longer seems so unfair. I’m happy and more relaxed. I like creating things rather than destroying them, and who would have thought I’d consider myself a people person! A lot’s happened in the last decade and I owe it all to my dog. 
Here’s the top 3 life lessons I learned from Russell.


1. DOG, the best dating app

In our age of anti-social social media and endlessly depressing dating apps, there’s no argument that human connection is being replaced by screen time. We spend more of our lives enjoying the discomfort of harmful blue light slowly burning our retina’s than we do looking into the eyes of other human beings. Maybe that’s where this weird twitch came from? Matter of fact, you look into someones eyes nowadays and you might be considered creepy or trigger some serious anxiety but don’t worry it’s ok that your IG feed is straight filth, whatever so is mine. It’s easy to lose faith when looking at this increasing trend of isolation but don’t worry I’ve got the solution! And yes it was again inspired by Russell. So what’s the solution? It should be obvious by now, mandatory puppy adoption for everyone.
I’ve gathered enough data on my own to prove this solution has some serious potential to boost human connection. If you don’t buy it I invite you to test it yourself. Here’s a simple field study to conduct at your leisure.

Field Study #1

A. Walk by person without your dog. (0 dogs)
B. Record interaction.
C. Walk by person with your dog. (1 dog)
D. Record interaction. 
E. Walk by person with a dog with your dog. (2 dogs)
F. Record interaction.

In our case, the more dogs we introduce to any situation, the more human to human interaction occurs. Dogs aren’t shy, they aren’t worried about judgement or rejection, they greet everyone with excitement and the possibility of being best friends. In our new age of keeping to ourselves, dogs give us permission to get back to our roots, let down our guard and say the hardest thing for so many people, “Hi.”

When you learn this magic quality our pets possess, the possibilities for interaction are endless so why not take full advantage? In college I lived in a gated community near campus, the majority of residence obviously students. My roommate and I quickly learned that if we let Russell out to roam around the common areas within a few minutes he would be surrounded by 2-3 cute girls petting him and concerned he was lost. That was our cue to run over and thank them for saving his life. I can’t tell you how many phone numbers we collected… So the moral of the story, delete your Tinder and Bumble, rescue a dog in need and start swiping in person.

2. It's just stuff

If you have a dog then you inevitably know at some point in their life they’re going to chew on something, something that you would prefer them NOT to chew on.
Anyways, my brand new Reef sandals were the first to go. I had just got them in the mail and was beyond excited. They were a limited edition light tan thatched material with the red, yellow and green rasta trim, real chick magnets ya know? The day after I got them one went missing. My biggest fear was realized when I found it shredded to pieces underneath the couch. I lost it, screaming and yelling, throwing stuff, really just making sure my dog new how upset I was. He was terrified.

Next were my Dragon sunglasses. Same kinda thing, they went missing and I found them properly gnawed on underneath the couch. This time I was still upset but not to the extent of the sandals. I didn’t want to scare my dog again, what was I thinking last time? Instead I gave him the silent treatment and just got depressed for a day or two.

Finally it was the biggest test of all. I was in College at the time, and just came home with a brand new laptop, can you guess where this is going? I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was out of the box for less than a minute, I glanced down to read the instructions and by the time I looked up Russell had his mouth over the corner. Why. In a split second he had caused the entire screen to crack diagonally, corner to corner. Goodbye computer. They weren’t running a 2 for 1 special. I had a choice to make, freak our, get depressed, or take it back get another one and move on with my life. No matter what I would choose I’d have to eventually move on with my life so I decided to skip feeling sorry for myself. From that moment on stuff just didn’t carry the same meaning and the funny thing is Russell grew out of his chewing phase shortly after the incident. 
You can always buy more stuff and besides some of the most unhappy people in this world have the most stuff. At the end It’s the relationships, the connection to others and nature, the precious moments that truly matter most. How many laptops was my dog worth? If you’re like me you’d give up every penny to take care of them.

3. It's not all about you

As people, sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do, as dog owners we ALWAYS have to do things we don’t want to do. Wether it’s waking up at 3 AM to take Fluffy out when his tummy hurts from the bag of trash he had for dinner (Russell’s nickname is Trash Panda), to calling poison control in a desperate panic to see if Princess is going to pull through after eating an entire packet of your Grandfather’s chocolate ex-lax, dog’s do stupid s*** and we can’t live without em'. Here’s some stupid s*** Russell’s done and what I learned.

  1. Jumped out of my car window after a squirrel when I was stopped at a red light.
  2. Went after a fishing lure and got swept down a dangerous river. Yes, I went in after him.
  3. Went after a fishing lure and got hooked in the lip. 
  4. Ate a 1lb box of See’s Candy Assorted Chocolates.
  5. Charged a horse.
  6. I could go on and on but let’s talk about skunks!


    How many times has Russell been sprayed by a skunk, I can’t even count but I’ll never forget the night this life lesson really skunk in, stunk in, sunk in.
    I was serving tables at a local restaurant with a pretty good bar scene meaning I would get done with work around 2 AM and if you’ve ever waited tables I don’t have to tell you how exhausted you are by the time you get home from a busy weekend night. One such night I finally walked in my front door after a painful 8 hour shift and all I wanted to do was sit down, take off my shoes and clothes that smelled of bussed food and spilled beer, flip on the TV and zone out. As dog owners we know this isn’t happening right away. Russ has to go out and he’s just as upset from sitting around for the last 8 hours as I am from working. Simply put, I’m exhausted, he’s hyper AF. Knowing that if I don’t take him out right away, he will mean-mug me or whine in a soft but extremely annoying high pitch just to make sure I'm uncomfortable enough to lose any sense of relaxation or enjoyment, I took him out. Since we were going just right to the front yard and it was late we forewent the leash; First mistake, last mistake. The second we walked out the door he was off, full blown sprint into the night. I saw his little white tail disappear into the darkness as he hurdled the small fence into the neighbors yard. Then I smelled it, skunk. 

    As soon as you smell it you know what happened but are holding on to the .0001 percent chance that he could have dodged the spray or the skunk missed. In my after work daze I pictured him going full ninja backflipping off the wall in slow motion as the god awful spray went underneath him by a half an inch and then getting the skunk in a sleeper hold and claiming his victory smelling fresh and clean. I was shocked back into reality when he reappeared over the wall tail between the legs walk of shaming toward me. Direct hit. 

    Before I had my dog, any little thing that didn’t go my way upset me. If I stubbed my toe I would hit the object like it knew what it was doing. I was self centered, spoiled and let my temper get the best of me. I remember this night so clearly because it was really the first time the choice appeared so clearly before me. Ya I was exhausted, I smelled, my feet were killing me and it was unusually cold out.
    The only thing I wanted to do was sit down and instead I’m standing outside staring at my pungent dog. I don’t know if I just didn’t have the energy to get upset or if a switch flipped but after I considered my choices I just started laughing. I went to the store to get my supplies, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and a bit of dish soap if you’re curious, came home and took care of it. So what I didn’t get to watch TV. I felt solid and knew that I made the right call by not losing my cool. Ever since that moment I’ve really taken control of my temper and been able to stay calm and positive in all kinds of bad situations. Thanks Russ.

    I could write a book about the ways Russell has changed my life. Each lesson he’s taught me is priceless and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without him. Forced to care for another living thing all those years ago started me on a journey to a happier and more fulfilled existence. So thank you Mom. I’m not sure you knew what you were doing, I’m actually pretty sure you didn’t, but it sure worked out! So if you need a loyal friend, a playmate, exercise pal, snuggle buddy, or accountability partner, if you’re searching for the meaning of life, a more peaceful existence, enlightenment or transcendence, I’ve got one suggestion.

    Get a dog.

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