On dogs

Every night, Astro and I share a playful ritual in the moments after our walk. As the elevator takes us home, I take him off his leash, activating his excitement. As soon as the doors open, he darts towards our apartment and glances back, inviting a spirited chase. He zips back and forth in the hallway, a joyful blur of energy, until finally, after a few sprints and successful evasions, he's ready to head back inside.

Last night, it dawned on me — our canine companions are more than just pets. They are silent mentors, imparting life lessons without us even realizing it.

This simple game, a blend of freedom and anticipation, never fails to end our evenings with a shared sense of joy and companionship. It’s a daily reminder that letting loose and indulging in play is sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves.

Astro, like most dogs, is a bundle of unconditional love. Unlike most dogs, however, his way of showing it is distinctly calm and composed, almost reflecting a stoic demeanor. Whenever my wife and I return home after a few hours, he greets us with a gentle wag and a measured jog to the door, expecting a back scratch or a head massage.

From Astro, I’ve come to appreciate the essence of good relationships: a form of love that transcends scorekeeping and harboring resentment. Perhaps more importantly, he's taught me that expressions of love are as unique as the individuals who share them, each with their own, sometimes subtle, language of affection.

Dogs are masters of living in the moment. For Astro, every walk is an adventure, every treat a delicacy, every belly rub an experience of pure bliss. The stresses of “adulthood” don’t bother him. His ability to fully immerse himself in the present inspires me to do the same, even momentarily. It’s a gentle nudge to cherish the simple things life has to offer in the here and now.

Dogs are also incredibly resilient. Luckily, Astro has been spared of any of the horrendous experiences that some of his peers face. But he has had his share of minor sicknesses and deeply uncomfortable experiences, like traveling long-distance on a plane. No matter what happens, he seems to adapt and get back to his normal self in no time. It’s a powerful reminder that while we may not control what happens to us, we are in control of how we react and respond. And that we can choose to do it with grace and optimism.

Astro’s capacity for empathy also amazes me. He can sense moods, offering a comforting presence when needed. Last week, as I was recovering from a bout of Covid and attempting to isolate, he came around multiple times from the balcony to peek in and quickly check on me. Maybe I’m delusional, but I took it as a sign of compassion, teaching me the power of simply being there for someone — not with grand gestures, but with simple, heartfelt support.

Our four-legged friends, in their unassuming ways, are some of our greatest teachers. They teach us about joy, love, presence, resilience, and empathy. As I journey through life, I find these lessons from Astro invaluable — guiding me toward a fuller, more meaningful approach to life.