Puppy lessons

A little over a year ago, we adopted a yellow lab puppy named Nalu. He was four months old and shy, but when we sat on the floor, he came up to us hesitantly and snuggled in my lap.

We had only recently been thinking of adopting a dog, but he and his human parents chose the time. After talking about it as a family, we decided to adopt him.

Nalu is a very different dog from our first yellow lab, Sophie. He loves to be with us, while she was very independent. He stays close to the house, while she would run outside and explore neighborhood, coming back only when she was ready. He’s slow to accept people and dogs, while she was friendly to everyone.

Here are a few lessons I learned from living with a puppy.

Standing a few feet in front of me, Nalu barked wildly at someone. When the person took one step closer, Nalu jumped up and raced back to me, hiding behind me and peering around suspiciously.
What I learned: The unknown can be scary. I can be a safe space, someone who people can trust to protect and support them.

When Nalu went to the beach for the first time, an unexpected wave swamped him. He ran out of the water and rubbed his wet head in the sand. The second time at the beach, he didn’t want to back into the ocean until another dog ran with him into the waves.
What I learned: Sometimes things are overwhelming, even when we know they’re coming.

The first time Nalu met my mom at our house, he wouldn’t stop barking at her. I gave her a treat and asked her to put it on the floor in front of him. He stopped barking and sat politely. Once she gave him the “okay” and he gobbled up the treat, he didn’t bark at her again.
What I learned: Kindness and first impressions matter.

We have a loveseat in our family room. I usually sit on the left side and Nalu has started curling up on the right side. He sometimes jumps up on “my side,” but he will move over when I want to sit there. When someone sites on “his side” of the couch, he stands in front of them and stares, sometimes putting his front paws on their knees.
What I learned: Territory, also known as healthy boundaries, are important for dogs and people.

I was sitting on the couch reading, and Nalu jumped up beside me. Looking away from me, he slowly leaned against my shoulder until he was lying in my lap. I caught his head as he tilted back, and he turned into my shoulder. His eyes drifted shut and he took a short nap.
What I learned: Dogs and people need affection or a caring touch, but they can’t always tell you what they need. Also, dogs and people can be sneaky.

Our lives are richer for the dogs and animals in our lives.

Did you care for a pet when you were a child? What lessons have you learned from your pets?

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