Puppy Love: How My Dog Is Helping Me Be A Better Woman

I try not to compare myself to others but a new woman recently came into my life and I’m finding it difficult to squelch my envy. You would think my unleashed, green-eyed monster is caused by her amazing appearance. I swear the woman could eat a deep dish pizza and an industrial size tub of gelato and retain her svelte figure—but that’s not it.

Take it from a once bald, eyelash-challenged cancer survivor, beauty is fleeting. It is her inner core that I covet. To be brutally honest, I resent her ability to have the courage to live her life on her terms. I’m a big believer that it is never too late to teach an old dog new tricks–except in the balancing a checkbook department. I started a journey, based on my observations, to incorporate her philosophies into my daily life. Rome, and especially steps toward self-improvement, were not built in a day but I’m excited to tackle my new to-do list.

Take a nap
I don’t know how she does it, but the woman takes a daily mid-afternoon snooze. I’m not sure how I am going to fit this in with a crazy work schedule, two international host students and two adult children living with me unless I get a padded room with a locked door but I WILL find a way.

Take advantage of every opportunity
She jumps at every chance that is presented to her and is truly the “exhibit A” of living life to the fullest. The woman often goes “joyriding” many times with no known destination.

Forgive quickly and forget
I’m tremendous at forgiving—it’s the “forget about it” (as my New York buddy would say) that I need to work on. She does both effortlessly.

Love unconditionally
No matter what the circumstance, it appears she continues to love people even if she doesn’t love their choices.

Get outside
Yeah! One I can cross off as DONE.

Greet people with enthusiasm
I think I am accomplishing this but her eagerness to meet and greet people is at a whole new level. I have never seen anyone so genuinely excited to interact with others.

Let others know in a nice but firm way, when they invade your territory
She isn’t a mother so she has an unfair advantage. For this mom, everything from my hair products to chocolate cookie dough is for grabs. I’m keeping it on the list but who are we kidding?

Turn exercise into play, play, play
I have never seen anyone run/jog by me with a big smile on their face—more like looks of severe constipation or agony. She is the exception. I wonder if she is on something. No one is that happy while working up a sweat.

Soak up some vitamin D
Again, I have this one down pat but I am keeping it on the list so I can rationalize my time in the sun. At least I use sunscreen. Somehow the woman can bake all day and not end up looking like a crustacean.

Keep well hydrated
I also have this one covered. Wait, she drinks water not wine. Getting my eight glasses of H2O in will be a work in progress.

Remove GUILT from your vocabulary
I feel guilt over EVERYTHING and I at times spoon-feed it to others. I feel guilty for not exercising, for eating the last—and second to last—doughnut, for forgetting to fill the birdfeeder and for not calling my aunt, uncle, brother and anyone outside a 400 mile radius on a more regular basis. The list is endless, which I also feel guilty about. How does she do it? On the rare occasion where I have witnessed her feel remorse, she seamlessly can LET IT GO.

Eat with gusto
Without going into the gory details, I have nailed this one as long as I can remember.

Be there for a friend in need
She is not big on words yet her actions speak volumes. Yours truly has been known to give lengthy “buck up beaver speeches” (named for my Dad’s “get a better attitude” diatribes). I have seen her sit quietly by a friend in need and simply BE in the moment.

Please others but maintain your integrity
She is a pleaser but is never a doormat. The woman also has an amazing, subtle way to let others know when they are taking advantage of her kindness. Where was she and her influence when I was the tennis mom and chairman of countless nonprofit events?

Like her, I am affectionate, loyal and pretty darn good at “playing well with others” but there is always room for improvement. One day perhaps, I will break free from my self-imposed leash and like her, live as if the gate has been burst open. Until then, I will continue to look to my canine for inspiration and hope to be the woman my new puppy already believes me to be.


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Mary Helen Darah is an award-winning columnist who has appeared in numerous publications in the Toledo area and beyond. Her column, The Mother of Mayhem, publishes on ProMedica HealthConnect the first of each month.