Keeping things in perspective - how our puppy taught us to focus on the positive

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In December, my husband and I - after not much deliberation - decided to get a Vizsla puppy who at the time was roughly 4 weeks old. We had seen her photos and despite knowing the breed's size and temperament as hunting dogs who need a lot of exercise, couldn't resist getting her at this time, although it was a rather trying period in our professional lives. For the next 6 weeks, we were giddy with anticipation and brainstormed names. We decided to name her Zola, which means "tranquil" in the Zulu language and were assured that all Vizsla's from this breeder were extremely relaxed, sweet mannered and therefore easy to handle. So in early February Zola arrived in Brooklyn and quickly became the darling of our neighbourhood. People squealed on the street and she learned soon that there was nothing to fear - not fire trucks nor noisy buses - and came to enjoy the attention quite a bit. We would take her outside every 1.5 hrs and made sure we followed every rule in the book to be calm and assertive parents but she was (and still is) a puppy. Sleep deprived and covered in little teeth marks we went through multiple evenings of testing each others' boundaries and almost every other week included a visit to the vet for vaccines or one of the several things that young dogs can have.

While being parents to Zola, we were both building businesses, so we had to go through paperwork and meet with accountants and lawyers. I was finishing certifications for pre/post natal exercise and a yoga teacher training all while we split up exercising her for almost 2 hours a day.  With the stress of training a young dog and not being able to leave the house for longer than a very hurried dinner, we soon came to be less than fond of our forced time together not to mention the stress we felt about yet another event: our impending (second) wedding with friends and family flying to New York from all corners of the world.

And then something magical happened. At the point of all of our stresses culminating, we took a trip to the Hamptons, strapped Zola into the back seat of our rental car, made a reservation with a dog friendly woman and left. New Yorkers will attest, that leaving the city behind can have a soothing quality and so it happened that we arrived on a freezing beach a few hours later and didn't mind it. Zola ran and was the happiest dog in the world, leash free in the sand, turning, chasing balls, focused on just us because there was nobody else crazy enough to be there. And she made us giggle, frozen and tired we could finally laugh about all of it.

Since our little getaway we have talked about how we need to relax and introduce a lighter mood into our current life. When we get stuck in a rut we look at Zola and watch her curiosity, her insatiable hunger for learning and her way to never hold a grudge even when she doesn't get what she wants. We recognize her eagerness to please, rather than focusing on her occasional testing of boundaries and our being together has changed drastically.

Zola Easterbunny

In life, we go through stages that are difficult, we are tested and tried and when everything happens at the same time, it's difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel and keep our chin up. Too often, one negative thought can lead to the next, the mind somehow convincing the body that it is too tired to move and the not moving adding to the downward spiral of a negative self image. It's in these situations that we can learn from our four legged companions. Movement keeps them happy, they don't hold on to resentment, they focus on the important things and if there is something to be happy about, they embrace it wholly! In some areas, we have already learned from animals, we place newborns and preemies on their parents' bare chests to create a bond and make them feel safe and at a later stage people with disabilities or high levels of anxiety have the opportunity to profit from being around animals in therapy that helps them feel grounded again. Often senior citizens who have a pet feel less lonely, too.

We have come to love Zola's 'velcro' personality when she insists on being part of everything we do. If she can have maximum body contact with one of us she is almost as happy as when it's a pile of all three of us on the couch. She entertains us with things she learns and melts our heart with her pure and unconditional love. When we get stressed, she will often deflect the situation by doing something that makes us laugh so hard, we have tears streaming down our cheeks and forget what we argued about. She has taught us so much and continues to do so. We couldn't imagine life without her.