So we got a dog.

It wasn’t a pandemic or empty nester thing. It was a phone call from a friend who breeds dogs, indicating she was having a litter of Bernadoodles and knew we would be interested, and she was right.

I grew up with cats, and my husband grew up with dogs and was keen to return there. Having been freelancers our entire lives while raising three kids and looking after aging parents, our plate was overflowing. Though the kids wanted a dog, it was a quick, hard and fast no. Fast forward thirty-eight years, and as grandparents, we took the leap and adopted our Bernadoodle, whom we affectionately named Stella. We figured it was a fitting name that could be yelled out repeatedly, as demonstrated by the late Marlon Brando, which sealed it for us. Stella is sweet and has a Peggy Lee energy, throwing her floppy ears back like a mane of hair as her eyes knowingly scrutinize you. Her paws look like Go-Go boots and walking her is comparable to flying a kite. Her movements are incongruent to her beauty as they are not dissimilar from a clumsy adolescent boy adapting daily to a growing body.

What Stella has taught us in a short period has been invaluable—particularly, bringing us into a world of unconditional love. One she offers up so freely and daily. A friend who’s always had dogs told me a spiritualist informed her that dogs don’t reincarnate. They embody and comprehend unconditional love, so there’s no reason to return to learn a lesson they already intrinsically understand. I suppose the fact that the word dog, when spelled backwards, is God cements that insight. Probably some inside humour on behalf of the Universe.

I’ve been a stickler for living in a space filled with good chi; consequently, I practiced feng shui for years, similar to acupuncture but in one’s environment. I had to remove all the elements I introduced to bring balance to each room before Stella’s arrival because they could pose a threat to her. After a few days in our home, I discovered that Stella was a compilation of all the remedies I had previously configured for each room. Leaving behind a high calibrating energetic residual as she playfully travelled from space to space.

Stella is curious and, simultaneously, cautious. She possesses a powerful internal instinct that humans also have but don’t heed or practice – choosing not to trust our gut and the clarity it brings. Instead, ordering another Starbucks, believing it’s clearing our heads. As we make room for our egos to spread, taking up more space for the next round of decision-making. Keeping ourselves from being present while haplessly shackled to illusion. Whereas Stella operates exclusively from that internal voice being highly intuitive and present.

The pandemic illustrated to me how beneficial naps are during the day. The clarity that comes from a good 20-minute snooze is invaluable. Better yet, is having a coffee just before you nod off because caffeine takes around 20 minutes to kick in. Compounded with a quick nap they merge, and you awaken bright and clear. A daily practice of shut-eye makes sense, and I bet quantitively would result in fewer errors. We underestimate the merits of sleep and resting our bodies, particularly stilling our minds. We comprehend the theory but ignore the facts because the perception of rest remains embedded in an inaccurate old belief system which is only at night. Stella has eroded any pre-existing beliefs on that front. She naps whenever she’s tired and trots when she walks, demonstrating to the world she loves who she is aware she’s part of the universal matrix and owns it.

Stella has to get out a few times during the day, which means so do we. Though we’ve lived in our neighbourhood for over 30 years, it’s now a brand new experience I wouldn’t otherwise be encountering. She has made new friends in the community, which has caused us to do the same. What we thought was established is getting transcended to such a degree I could never have imagined. She wakes each morning and behaves like there weren’t any failings from the previous day. Each day is newly minted with possibilities. Her memory appears erased of anything from the prior day. Showing up daily bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, fresh and filled with an unlimited well of unconditional love every second of every day. It is impossible to be angry at her, which got me thinking. As human beings, what would our day look like if we were as engaged and committed to extending unconditional love? No matter what happened, getting cut off in traffic, or at the other end of someone who forgot their sacred light and behaved curtly. How would it look to say no problem, I’m going to extend love because I will have a great day, and nothing will stop me. Nothing you say or do will have one iota of power over my day. I’m keeping all my energy, and it’s going to be great because it’s my day.

Human beings consume all types of media and modalities to get themselves out of a rut, desperately searching for light. Negativity clings to us like velcro or burrs to socks and is invariably uncomfortable. Dogs don’t experience that. Instead, they have mastered the state of being. It’s that simple. Stella loves every part of her day and is open to all of it. Including shortcomings that surface from a minor backyard accident to a friendly nipping from a dog in the neighbourhood. She doesn’t judge it; she moves through it, and it doesn’t stay in her consciousness. It’s in the past. Her raison d’être is to be loved. She’s transformed our home and has taught us how depleted we are as human beings compared to the disposition of a happy dog.

Buddha teaches how important the breath is in transforming our suffering and paying attention to it. Stella does that with everything. Exploring, sniffing and taking big breaths while expelling equally big sighs as she travels to some magical place where she quietly barks and smiles, all the while melting into the kitchen floor. Completely trusting, knowing she is loved.

I finally get this whole ‘dog’s life’ idea. We all want love, and nourishment, to be safe and have a warm and dry place. It reminds me of Tom Dillon, who was an icon in advertising. He said, “The things people need daily are two quarts of water, three and a half pounds of oxygen, two thousand calories and a warm, dry place. Everything else is want.” Dillon was commenting that advertising makes people want things they don’t need. Dogs only want what they need.

I had a conversation with Stella, midway through, resigned realizing it was more of a Gary Larson exchange where all she heard was blah, blah, blah. I asked her to teach me how it is I could adopt the wisdom of a dog’s life desiring so little and being so happy. She winked, licked me and closed her eyes.

Stella is clever in figuring things out, and of late, I’m not sure who is training who. She’s made us leave our lane on several occasions, opening our eyes to the fact it’s not worth sweating the small stuff, which is something else, seeing that she’s a 36-pound puppy, so her little accidents aren’t so little. With that, she’s expanded our practice of forgiveness. Most importantly, it’s like living with an entity of pure love.

It’s a compilation of all the small things she does that place the day on its axis and lights up our souls. It made me pay for a stranger’s morning coffee, bring an unexpected token to a friend, and donate time to help a colleague. Essentially spreading kindness. Those small activities collectively are the joy Stella brings into our world and reminds us of daily. We’re humbled and grateful. She not only loves us but expresses that love genuinely. It’s impossible to be angry when exposed to such a powerful, loving energy that you then take out into your world, and witness its expansion.

With what appears to be the planet going to hell in a handbasket, Stella has shown us that we’ve taken our eyes off the prize, and that need not be the case. The answer is unconditional love. It’s where things grow, heal and transcend. Those stuck in power and caught in old beliefs and fears have created a type of spin cycle that we’re all experiencing. Like a wet dog, we need to shake it off and start from a new place of love every moment until it becomes our everyday way of being for ourselves and others.

Only then will we transcend the world by getting out of the doggie doo and onto the gorgeous green grass.