10 Life Tips from Henry the Dog

This tiny, one-eyed pup teaches some valuable lessons on how to live life to the fullest. 

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- Posted on Jun 4, 2019

Tiny Henry trains his steady gaze on the wide world.

This is Henry. He has only one eye. We’ll come back to that. My partner and I love dogs but travel often and wouldn’t want to subject a pet to a life of kennels. When we’re not traveling, we work from home, which leaves us long stretches to offer attention, comfort and love to a dog who needs it. So we decided to foster. When we met Henry, a four-year-old papillon mix, there was no doubt: He should live with us until he found a permanent home. We were happy to have his company and committed to teaching him a few things, one of which was not to bark so much. What I didn’t realize was that this beautiful one-eyed creature had a lot to teach me too.

1. Everyone has a story. A family first adopted Henry from a pound, but as it turned out, they weren’t a good match. That’s how he ended up in a rescue, where we found him. We were told he didn’t get along with the family’s children and its other dog, but it’s hard to know for sure (and Henry wasn’t talking). It reminded me that you can hear things about others, but you’ll never really know the truth unless you were there. We weren’t there. We just accepted Henry and loved him.

2. Accept the things you cannot change. The vet said Henry was probably born without a second eye. I like to think he looked around, saw others who have two eyes and thought, Two? How can you even see out of both at once? There’s power in accepting the things you can’t change. Henry didn’t mind that he was missing an eye. And he certainly couldn’t will himself to have a second eye. He never let having only one eye stop him from living his best life. We all have our “second eye.” The closer we can get to having an attitude like Henry’s, the better off we’ll be.

3. Let others lift you up. Henry was too short for some of the things he wanted to do, like getting on our bed at night. He would scramble on the floor from one side of the bed to another, hoping to find the low side. (There was no low side.) In the end, one of us would always pick him up and set him on the bed. It’s okay to rely on others. Being independent isn’t the same thing as being insistent on doing everything yourself. Sometimes there’s strength in letting others carry you.  

4. Live in the now. Our human brains can be our greatest weakness. I can’t prove it, but I’m convinced Henry didn’t know how to hold a grudge and that he thought little, if at all, about the future or the past. He was all about the now. If you told Henry that he was going for a walk, he thought you meant he was going for a walk right now. There was no later, and there was no before. There was only this moment. Stay present like Henry.

5. Find your peanut butter jar. Life is too short for half-hearted endeavours. I learned this from watching Henry spend hours digging into a nearly empty peanut butter jar. When he finished, the jar was licked clean as far as his tongue could reach. His dedication was admirable. Find the thing you love and give yourself over to it.

6. Be a good listener. Henry never interrupted. He never made things about himself. He never brought his baggage to a conversation. When I spoke, he was patient and tilted his head adorably to indicate his engagement. Being a good listener means contributing to someone else’s well-being without saying a word. Whether you tilt your head is up to you.

7. Don't dwell on the negative. Step on Henry’s foot while he watched us make dinner? He howled for an instant, then went right back to hoping for scraps. Nip his ear while I attached his collar? He got over it before I realized what happened. Maybe Henry’s neurocapacity didn’t allow him to dwell on the negative because, well, dog brain. But we can choose how to expend our mental energy—why waste it on something that upsets us?

8. Don't let anyone tell you you're small. Henry didn’t weigh more than 15 pounds soaking wet, a fact he seemed blissfully unaware of. If he saw something that unnerved him, he barked. It wasn’t a booming or menacing bark that would alert others or frighten his target. But that never stopped him. He would speak up whenever he thought something was wrong, even if his voice was small.

9. Exercise, drink plenty of water and rest. This would probably mean more coming from, say, a doctor than a dog foster, but here we are. And the essential truth is undeniable. Henry went for three or four walks a day, followed up with a healthy drink of water and always made sure he got his sleep. No late-night Netflix benders for him. It seems simple, but we humans often wind up off track, make poor choices, then have to deal with the consequences. Take care of yourself. Henry never regretted getting up and out—you won’t either.

10. Let it roll right off you. People would sometimes stop us on walks. Did they ask about Henry’s hobbies? Admire how well he behaved on a leash? Never. It was always about the eye. Every time. It annoyed me. But you know what? Henry didn’t care. You may say that he didn’t understand, and I concede that. Our ability to process language means we do not have that luxury. But we can still get ourselves to the same place as Henry. And the sooner we do, the more we can enjoy life. Henry lived with us for a month. Then he got adopted. The best part? His forever home is with my mother-in-law. He lives six hours away now, but we still have his leash ready for when he visits. And a peanut butter jar.

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