“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.” – Marianne Williamson

Are you a dog lover? I know I am.

Animals of all kinds can bring us so much joy, not only when things are going well, but also when we feel pain, illness and suffering.

“Man’s best friend” can be our true and faithful companions through thick and thin. We look to our pets when we are ready to play and laugh, and they instinctively know when we need their support.

I’ve had a pet for most of my life. From bunnies to mutts, I’ve loved them all. It has always felt comforting to me to have a pet around. The joy pets provide is well worth the effort. We all have struggles and challenges in our life, and it’s during those times that our pets can really come in handy. In fact our pets can even help us recover from stress, heartache and ill-health. I have seen this first hand.

Neil and I have an amazing Shiba Inu named Cinnabon. She came into our family when we needed her most. Professionally our business was creating a lot of stress — we were experiencing set back after set back — and because of this stress my health was again deteriorating. On the exterior we put on a fabulous façade; Mr and Mrs sunshine and bunnies, but on the inside it was entirely different. Until the day we picked up the fuzzy puppy from the airport…

Since welcoming Cinnabon into our family both the Monkey Husband and myself feel much more grounded, happy and substantially less stressed. Day by day I am feeling less pain and I have more energy throughout the day. Who knows maybe my little fur baby will help kick my lupus into remission?!?!

After diving a bit deeper into the health benefits of dogs, I learned that I am not the only one who has seen health benefits from a dog, it is quite the universal paradox. Dog owners worldwide enjoy longer lifespans on average, and the company a canine provides makes those extra years of life more gratifying. Positive health attributes dogs afford remain a constant for young and elderly alike, including weight maintenance, reduced blood pressure, and improved cardiovascular fitness. The benefits of owning a dog are not limited to the physical. People with pets enjoy superior self-esteem, while suffering less depression due to an optimistic mindset that companionship with animals provides.

As I watch my dog go through her day, I realize that all of the lessons I need to know are right there in front of me if I care to pay attention. I am dead determined to ‘cure’ my lupus and I think Cinny may know the secret solution.

My new 2015 goal is to become the person my dog wants me to be, and be the person I want to be as well. I know that whatever life brings me, joy is still always there for the taking and health works hand in hand with joy so bring it!

8 life lessons from Ms. Cinnabon Tkatchuk

1. Connect with others.

Our relationships with others nurture our soul. We may neglect our friends because of our work or other interests. We may just get busy and forget to stay in touch.

When we look to our dogs, they need our connection on a daily basis. They need our love, time, and attention. When we stay connected with others, it feeds our soul and helps to lead us to a long life.

2. Live for today.

We can spend time regretting the past and worrying about the future, but I have learned that the solution will not be found that way. Spinning my wheels thinking about things that I cannot change is not productive.

Dogs live for today—and so can we. We can appreciate every moment as it comes and be grateful for what we have. Like all animals, when we live in the present, we can have more enthusiasm, joy for life, and less worry.

3. Forgive.

Forgiveness may be something we consider, but find difficult to really feel and carry out. The payoff in not forgiving is that we can continue to blame others for how we feel and remain the victim.

When you study animal packs, there is rarely a conflict, as the members of the pack solve their problems and move on. They don’t hold a grudge or worry about what happened yesterday.

Forgiveness gives us back our power, as we regain a sense of wholeness, peace, and the ability to move on with our lives.

4. Trust your intuition.

Many of us have not developed or have lost touch with our intuition. We listen to words, but neglect our inner feelings. We may feel uneasy about a certain situation, but neglect what our body is telling us.

Dogs understand what is going on beneath the surface, as they are led by their instincts and rely on their gut reactions. We have these clues as well. Hone in on your intuition and it will guide you to a life of peace and serenity.

5. Find balance.

When any of us have a traumatic situation, we can get off track and spend too much time focused on the situation, neglecting the other areas of our life. I have, at times spent too much time worrying about the problems of others. I’ve learned that we shortchange not only ourselves, but those around us.

Notice how well a dog does when their life is balanced. Dogs need their exercise, a dose of love, and structure to their daily routine, and so do we. When we balance our life, the stress fades to the background and we enjoy life that much more.

6. Set clear boundaries.

We teach others how to treat us. Many of us have a hard time setting boundaries that are clear and believable. We can waver and be indecisive, and those close to us may not know where our boundaries begin or end.

Close, connected relationships start with clear and consistent communication. Our relationship with our dog is a perfect example. When the rules are clear, and enforced consistently, our pets do well; otherwise they are confused about what is acceptable behavior.

7. Find your purpose.

Have you ever wondered why you were placed here on earth? Sometimes we lose our way and are not sure about our true purpose. The same is true for dogs.

When dogs are given a job and contribute in some way to the well being of others they feel a sense of satisfaction. As humans, we need to find our purpose as well. When we take the time to discover our purpose in life, we feel more fulfilled, and our life feels more meaningful.

8. Make every day special.

Sometimes we can let days go by and get swallowed up in our routine. Every day is the same and our excitement is lacking.

Have you ever noticed how a dog finds everyday life exciting? They can’t wait to eat, go for their walk, see you come home, or greet a visitor. We can learn so much by observing how our pets have enthusiasm for the simple joys of everyday life.

Everyday can be special for us as well. When we take the time to look, we may find our joy is still there waiting to be rediscovered.

So three cheers for health, happiness and fuzzy puppy kisses.

With Love from the Trench Kitchen,