By Claire Costin to Post
Most of us in the United States have been under a stay-at-home order of some kind for several weeks as the nation and the world work to confront the Covid-19 pandemic. For some of us, this means working from home, for others it has meant the loss of work. It has meant physical distance from friends and loved ones and changing the way we approach the most basic aspects of our daily lives.
Is it safe to leave the house to go get groceries? Should I wear a mask to go for a walk? Should I even go for a walk? And for first-responders, healthcare workers, grocery workers, factory workers, and delivery personnel – whose jobs that are deemed “essential” – the current condition means taking a huge risk every time we leave our home to do the work that we know means so much to others around us.
No matter which scenario you identify with, you are likely confronting a new reality that looks nothing like the one you knew for years. And it is likely that, when our economy begins to open again, we are not going to see a return to “normal” as we knew it. The risk of recurrence of this disease, desire to protect those who are most vulnerable, and huge economic changes around the globe mean life will change in ways that we may not imagine.
For those of us who are fortunate enough to be sheltering in place with our pets, we are in a unique position to receive mutual benefit from them and learn valuable life lessons that will be transferable to whatever our new normal turns out to be. If you have ever observed a dog taking time to literally stop and smell the roses (and the trees, and the grass, and the dirt, and…) you have witnessed a profound lesson in what it means to be mindful and present.
Dogs experience the world in a sensory way without being trapped in the past or overly anxious about the future. It is, of course, much easier said than done to change our habits, put all of these justifiable fears and anxiety out of our minds, and shift into a mindset of perfect presence and peace; and it would be unrealistic to ask that of ourselves. The good news, though, is that even a small shift toward presence and mindfulness can help contribute to peace and help ease some of the fear that has become a constant undercurrent of the world today.
To learn more about ways to make the most of quarantine with our dogs, I reached out to Jennifer Kasner, who founded Goldn.com with her husband Jared and their golden retriever Glee. Goldn is described as “A Happiness Routine for You and Your Dog,” and that is exactly what they offer. When you subscribe to Goldn (at no charge), you receive texts with links to articles and training videos, mindfulness meditations, and messages from your dog reminding you just how great they think you are.
For example, as I was writing this article, I received a text from Goldn that read, “Message from your dog: I’m grateful for you every day. That you exist, that you love me, that you’re with me. Focus on something you have right now that you’re grateful for.” So I did. Just taking a few minutes to express gratitude (in this case, to my golden retriever Mikey, for being a constant source of joy and entertainment) helped me center myself and remember that there is good in the world.
Jen responded to my questions about how to make the most of quarantine with your dog with some amazing ideas. Here are just a few of the tips she offered:
- Teach your dog a new trick (spin): https://www.goldn.com/keeping-your-dog-active-during-covid-19/
- Create an at-home agility course that you and your dog can learn together: https://www.goldn.com/keeping-your-dog-active-during-the-covid-19-outbreak-part-2/
- Practice focus with your dog by playing the Attention Game: https://www.goldn.com/keeping-your-dog-active-during-the-covid-19-outbreak-part-3/
Jen also sent some valuable information about how to “leverage your dog for your own self-growth during quarantine.” Here are some thoughts to consider:
“Stay-at-home is a tricky time. The range of factors that are anxiety provoking are huge, whether you’re concerned about your own or your family’s health and safety, you’ve gone through loss or financial insecurity, are getting cabin fever, conflicting with those you’re secluded with, or are having tension with your own thoughts.
However, quarantine also provides a really amazing opportunity to fully embody the lessons your dog has been trying to teach you. I love the metaphor of the butterfly; we were living in the world as caterpillars, have gone into cocoons, and now are going to emerge as butterflies. But, the core question is what do you want that to look like and how committed are you to that process.
Use your dog as a vehicle to be honest with yourself about the life you want to lead and the world you want to inhabit, and then trust and love them as your most loyal advocate to make that your reality.
Step 1: Make a list of things you’ve done in self-isolation that you want to do as you transition into regular life. Ideas: cooking more, concentrating on surrounding yourself with the people who love and support you, reading more, working on things you care about.
Step 2: Think about issues and values that have arisen for you that you want to advocate for. For this in particular, we look to our dogs. Ideas: acts of kindness regularly, caring about the environment, conscious consumerism, disassociating from technology, thinking and caring about those not in your inner circle.
Step 3: Tell your dog what you’ve come up with. Not only will they meet you with support and love, articulating these goals out loud will help you solidify them in your mind and feel committed to them.”
Jen and Jared are both amazing people who give so much of their lives to help others improve their lives through self-care, mindfulness exercises, and gentle reminders about the beauty that comes from living with a dog. In her lovely way, Jen explains why they do what they do:“We believe that dogs have a unique power to transform the world. They give us a portal to understand the most unique, beautiful aspects of life. In our modern world, values like unconditional love, acceptance, lack of judgement, being present, valuing inter-being connection are all natural aspects of our dogs’ existence. We think that they, at their core, are so perfectly good. As humans, we believe it is one of our greatest privileges and opportunities to learn more about what it means to live a life of love, goodness and meaning based on our relationships with our dogs. We also believe it is imperative to meet this great gift by providing the best life possible for our dogs.”
I wish you all happiness, and I hope you and your loved ones continue to stay safe and healthy during these unprecedented times. If you are interested in receiving messages from their golden Glee, visit www.goldn.com, or follow them on Instagram @joingoldn.