Behaviour

Unguarded Moments

By Aubrey Beardsley

Here’s something that has been intriguing me. Lots of people say that dogs live in the moment. And I have been thinking about this because I’m unsure as to what this really could mean or if it is even the full story.

I know that some of us, with more humble beginnings, know what it is like to live on the street, live on a shoestring, and live on one’s wits. And now that my fortunes have changed, I am getting quite used to what it’s like to live like a lord, to live the life of Reilly (has anyone ever met Reilly?), or to live in the lap of luxury.

But to live in the moment? This one has me stumped.

You see, sometimes when some people talk about dogs living in the moment, they seem to think it’s about holding no grudges and remembering no pain. That we will still come back next time, having forgotten everything, having forgiven everything, and carry on our way. But that’s simply not true. And in some ways believing that completely might even cause us some problems with humans. We remember the bad things and the good things, how else would we learn? We can become confident and secure with more and more good moments. Or we can become wary, cautious, guarded or worse with more and more bad ones. But one thing is for sure, we remember, and it prepares us. And sometimes that memory translates into things that make it very hard for us to get along in our daily lives. We may play and run and enjoy the good things when they come our way, but this doesn’t mean we don’t remember. But this is still living in the moment. We are not dwelling on the past, but we are learning sometimes the wrong lessons from the bad moments.

But what we do have is a capacity to put all our faith in someone new, and not to hold a grudge against them for something someone else might have done in the past. We might make a link but we can learn quickly if it’s mistaken. We give everyone a chance. And this is what sets us dogs apart from mere humans. I’ve watched enough B-grade romantic movies to know that this is something that humans find very hard to do! Don’t let one bad experience or even 100 ruin your opportunities.

So, as for dogs “living in the moment”, I think this is really about our optimism. No matter what has happened to us, we dogs all share the motivation to turn it around. We really and truly come alive in the good moments. We revel and thrive in the very good moments. And given the support and reinforcement of more good moments, we have the chance to focus more and more on the very good and prepare for the best rather than the worst. We don’t forget about the bad, we just learn that it is no longer relevant and we don’t have to live our lives preparing for it. Reinforcing the good means reinforcing the irrelevance of the past. So, living in the moment doesn’t mean we don’t prepare for our future, but it does mean that the quality of those moments might limit our future and affect the way we prepare. And that’s the crucial thing. So give us good moments, and watch us live!

Just look at my pal, Huw. Huw came to live here with a suitcase full of bad moments. And believe me, he doesn’t forget them. But he has transformed his life since then. He talks to people, he meets new dogs, he goes out and about, he walks through doors (a major achievement for him), he has zoomies in the park, he plays with toys, and he smiles. All these things are evidence that yes, he is now living in the good moments! He’s no longer on his guard, he’s on his game!

So if you really want to enjoy seeing us truly live in the moment, give us really good ones.

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