Imagine my irritation when I discovered that the headquarters for Dog is Good had been turned into a trash dump. Yep, after an afternoon spent cleaning, purging, and organizing a portion of our warehouse I walked into the office area to witness the aftermath of a one “dog” wrecking crew.
Earlier that morning, BOLO and Henry had joined me on a long walk. Tired from the exercise and rising temperatures, they welcomed the air conditioning that my office provided. They engaged in their usual routine of trotting through the building to see if anyone was there before returning to to my office, where they both jumped up on the couch and took their respective places at either end for a well-deserved nap. I completed some unfinished assignments and then got up to head downstairs so I could tackle my original mission of being there on a Sunday- to organize everything we use for trade shows and events. Before I disappeared, I took one final glimpse at my dogs sleeping soundly. I smiled as I took notice of the familiar, hard to describe feeling I get in my heart whenever I stop to “take in their cuteness”. They had both curled up into little balls of fur and were now in a deep slumber…or so I thought.
Two hours later, I returned to the main office area to discover the disaster that had unfolded quietly. Trash was everywhere…and I mean everywhere. Upstairs, downstairs, and in everyone’s office, BOLO had turned over every trash can and scattered the contents throughout the facility. I know…my fault! I neglected to put up the gate I use to contain the dogs in my office when I am not there. Ugh! I was tired and just wanted to go home. I felt the irritation and anger brewing inside me. I was ready to leave but now I had to clean up the mess. I called to BOLO and heard her race down the hallway above. Her paws “screeched” against the wooden floors as she slid to turn the corner and leap down the stairs to greet me with her puppy head cocked and tongue hanging out. As she panted, her jowls were pulled back in the proverbial doggie smile and her eyes expressed joy. It looked as if she was about to say,” Oh hi, what’s up? I’ve been having a blast while you have been working! Are you done? Can we go to the park now?”. In an instant, my irritation and anger disappeared. IN AN INSTANT. I looked at that yellow lab and every negative feeling I had at that moment went away. As I went down the hallway and from room to room both downstairs and upstairs, BOLO followed me. Her tail wagged as she intently watched me clean up the remnants from her afternoon fiesta. And, I noticed…”anger” was nowhere to be found.
Why? Why was it so easy for anger/frustration to fade away the moment I looked at the little culprit? We forgive them so easily because we know they do not intentionally do things to hurt us. Our dogs showcase pure innocence, are completely authentic, and we allow them the grace to be just who they are- dogs. They love us so unconditionally that we strive to return that same love through compassion and forgiveness. Plus, they are so darn cute and precious that I find it almost impossible not to crack a smile when they look at me.
I bet there are a lot of dog lovers out there who have experienced something similar. We forgive our dogs so willingly and with ease but find it more challenging to resolve those same emotions when they involve people. Despite the fact we know these emotions are destructive, we tend to hold onto them longer than we should. This has a negative impact on ourselves, our attitudes, and on others- creating a vicious cycle of unintended consequences.
Because I am quite cognizant of the downward spiral that can take place when you hold onto anger too long, I want to offer some suggestions on best practices that can help to bring you back to a “better emotional state” when anger is triggered. It can be difficult to implement these strategies directly in the moment (I know I have a really really hard time doing so), but hopefully you can take some action so you don’t succumb to the long-term detrimental effects of this toxic emotion. NOT addressing anger can destroy your body and state of mind.
- Take a breather: Identify the anger, allow yourself to feel it, and then step back for a bit. Breathe, imagine places that bring you joy or solace, or go find your dog and sit with them. It is super hard to stay in an angry place when you are engaged with your dog.
- Find some sunshine and search within yourself: Grab the leash and your dog and head out for an energizing walk. While out, lay down in the grass, look up at the sky and take stock of yourself. What led to the anger? Were you having a bad day? Was the person you are angry with just the final straw in a series of disappointments? As you review what’s going on with you personally, take pleasure in noting how your dog is responding to you in this position. It’s likely you have either become their new toy, are the recipient of slobbery kisses, or are feeling the warmth of their body as they lay down beside you offering comfort.
- Talk it out: You are certainly welcome to talk to your dog to help get some of the ugly feelings out. They definitely have a sense for when you are “off” and can provide a good listening ear. However, it is best to communicate your needs/emotions clearly either by speaking directly to the person or through journaling.
Getting angry in life is inevitable. We all get angry from time to time. It is up to us to respond to the nasty emotion in a way that serves us best. I will be the first to admit, my “go to” response is less than desirable. I tend to shut down and bury it deep inside. It will be challenging, but when I feel anger brewing, I am going to dig a little deeper and try to employ the same compassion towards others and myself as I do for my dogs. At the very least, I am going to seek out my pups – they are the perfect remedy for instant happy!