04/22/2014 01:41 pm ET Updated Jun 22, 2014

Eight Dog Tricks I Value Most


I haven't managed to teach my dog many tricks, other than to twirl on his hind legs whenever he thinks I might reward him with a slice of banana. (And that one he pretty much learned on his own.) But he has taught me plenty.

It's the middle of the afternoon and my Pekingese, Leo, is taking his customary nap. He's lying with his head halfway off his bed, tongue lolling, snores audible upstairs in my office even though his bed is in the dining room.

Does my dog care what he looks and sounds like? He does not.

Does it bother him that he needs to laze around in the afternoons to rejuvenate himself before his twilight walk? Not one bit.

My dog is now 8 years old, which makes him as middle-aged as I am, and he is comfortable in his own white furry skin. I'm trying to take lessons from him. You can't teach an old dog new tricks, maybe, but this dog has plenty to teach an old writer:

1. Walks aren't just for exercise. Sometimes a walk is all about greeting the neighbors and sniffing the flowers. Some neighbors might even invite you inside for a treat!

2. Yes, there are cold days and rainy days, but that doesn't matter. Get outside and you'll feel better.

3. Even on your worst days, good things can happen: people patting your head, a breezy car ride, an exciting game of tag with the cat. You just never know what's around the corner.

4. You will learn more by watching and listening than by speaking. Don't bark unless it's your turn.

5. Rejections hurt, but they don't make you less unique or talented. Make the most of what you have.

6. Children are more fun than adults, because you never know what they'll say or do next. Act extra friendly when they're around, so they'll visit often.

7. Not everyone will love you. Some people will be afraid of you. Others will be so allergic to your presence that they won't even try to shake your paw. A few people might even be mean and try to kick you or tease you. Just ignore them. Life is too short to spend it with liars, betrayers, and people who keep making you do the same tricks over and over again.