‘It’s a dog’s life’ is an idiom people use to mean an unhappy, miserable and hard life. Apparently the phrase initiated in the 16th century when dogs would guard homes and small communities, were fed scraps, slept outside and had short lives, whereas today most dogs are well fed, groomed, pampered, sleep inside and live longer. (My sister Tamara is thirteen!) Many of us also have much more meaningful work.
People complain about ‘working like a dog’, bemoaning long hours doing something they don’t like to do. ‘Working like a dog’ may sound like a tiresome and joyless affair, without a hint of laughter, fun, or play. But I wouldn’t agree. I love my job and wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love work.
Dogs truly derive meaning from their work, approaching each new day with eagerness and anticipation. No matter how simple or complicated the task, working gives us a sense of purpose.
Not all dogs have great careers like mine, but that doesn’t make their jobs any less meaningful. As anyone with a dog knows, they relish their roles as welcoming greeters, home security guards (Tamara’s forte), and sometimes hilarious entertainers and comedians. (My sister Heidi likes to put on a performance). We cheer you up when you’re down – and stand ready to protect you with our life, should your life be in danger. Our commitment to serving is undeniable.
Who listens to your problems better than your faithful pooch? Our gorgeous eyes tell you we are listening, even if we may not be capable of providing verbal feedback. There is no more valuable quality than the ability to lend an ear and dogs are excellent listeners. All walk long Tamara listens to her Auntie’s problems. She has become a bit of a therapy dog in her retirement and her Auntie doesn’t have to worry about any issues of confidentiality.
Dogs love to play, which usually involves lots of movement, whether it’s running, chasing or jumping. I like to have a little run around and play when I first get to the office and again before we get ready to go home. I also keep a few toys lying round the office. People try to convince themselves that ‘play’ is a separate activity from work. They think that passions should be nurtured outside of work, by family and friends, creative endeavours, sports, or by play. Then on Sunday nights their playful state of mind shifts toward thoughts of another week of work.
True harmony lies not in separating work and play, but in integrating the two. Dogs get this instinctively and people need to ‘work’ at it. Playing can open up your mind to all kinds of new ideas and creativity. If you can exercise while you play, even better and of course dogs actually give you a reason to go for a walk. I would also recommend ‘free runs’ that’s when you just go to the park and have a run around.
I think dogs are great role models for people to emulate in their own working lives. (There is even a book about it ‘Work Like Your Dog’). Every day is new, every task is exciting and everything is fun. We dogs approach our jobs not only with loyalty, discipline, sensitivity and love, but also with joy, enthusiasm, and a willingness to see our work as play.
Your state of mind improves just by looking at a dog (try it and you’ll see what I mean). If people could sustain a bit of a dog’s spirit, you could have much happier careers and more meaningful working lives – and truly understand the adage ‘wag more, bark less.’