Our dog made us better humans

16 August 2021    |    By Zurwan N. Amaria and Devatha P. Nair

O n a random Wednesday evening in late November 2012, we adopted Ezra, a tiny but character-laden black and white male Chihuahua mix, born a scant three months before, from our local Humane Society. Over the years, we had conversations around the inevitable responsibilities that come with sharing our lives with a companion animal, and the discussions had rapidly intensified in the weeks leading up to Ezra coming home. However, we were fairly unprepared for his actual arrival, having neither a bowl, dog food, leash, nor any of the implements necessary for even the most basic of his anticipated needs: we had made the classic mistake of assuring ourselves that we would stop by the Humane Society to only ‘look’ at animals up for adoption. Later that evening, we came home with a small five-pound bundle of energy, who chose us as much as we chose him.

We knew his arrival in our lives would be a momentous event, but just how momentous these changes would be, we never would have known on that fateful Wednesday. Our lives changed that day, undoubtedly for the positive. And though there have been sacrifices, lifestyle changes, and added worries, his contributions to our lives have been innumerable, immeasurable, and profound. Below are a few ways this sweet little animal changed our lives and continues to assist us in our quest to become better human beings.

He taught us responsibility

Ezra has very much become the third leg of our stool, equal to us in how he supports the family. And while that is a heavy responsibility for a now 20-pound animal with very few tools at his disposal, it is one he recognizes and takes seriously. He never shies away from responsibility, whether it be to comfort us when we are upset, to alert us when there is a perceived danger, or to take a break from our work to stop and ‘smell the roses’ by playing with him. Ezra shows us that if we have accepted responsibility, we must see it through consistently, even when we don’t feel up to it.

He taught us how to love

Our pets love us in truly humbling ways and in ways we often feel we don’t deserve. They love us without condition, whether we are tired and don’t feel like playing; whether we are sad, hurt, or sick; whether we were a bit late coming home; or whether we scold them for digging up the garden or sleeping on our freshly ironed clothing. His brand of love has taught us to have more genuine relationships with people by striving to overcome conditional love: Love people for who they are, even if they disappoint, frustrate, or anger us, and be quicker to forgive than to punish others in their interactions with us.

Ezra

He taught us how to be grounded

Ezra has a strong, regimented sense of routine, and it has become evident to us over the years how much he relies on his schedule to comfort himself and stay grounded in a world that he overwhelmingly has no control over. He knows that even when we largely feel out of sorts with the way our lives lead us, we can always turn back to something as simple as a routine to help ground us and better cope with life’s instability.

He taught us how to live in the now

In Ezra’s world, he lives in the present and is seemingly unconcerned about events that happened yesterday or will happen tomorrow. This is an incredibly novel way to live, and for him, it works. While practicality demands that we may not be able to adopt this theory in its entirety, there are valuable lessons for us in this approach. He has shown us not to get mired in the events of the past but to take what lessons we can from what happened and move on. And regarding the future, though we may dream of things happening in a certain way, there is no guarantee that it will, and thus, we must be confident in our ability to react to challenges that come our way. Living in the now, very simply, allows us to live a happier and more contented life.

He taught us to have respect for all beings

We, along with Ezra, are amongst countless beings that live, have lived, or will live. We don’t exactly know why or how we came to be: we just are. With a well-honed instinct, Ezra grasps this seemingly simple fact and takes his place in the large scheme of it all without questioning his spot. He has taught us to extend the same sense of belonging that he commands to the countless numbers of sentient creatures that have a role to play in the ecosphere and deserve respect simply because they are here along with us, spinning around the sun, oblivious to why or how.

He taught us how to be better communicators

Ezra understands a multitude of verbal and nonverbal inputs, from words to hand gestures to tones and sounds and even facial expressions but most of all, he understands us because he has a desire to understand us. Ezra’s style of communication in its most raw and pure form has shown us that communication can be a two-way street where we work with each other to simply understand and be understood and need not be embellished with excess formality or endless, inefficient verbosity. Communication can be simple, direct, and effective. And above all, communication can be kind.

For us, Ezra is a living and breathing instruction manual on how to live, love, and communicate. And while our daily lives have been enriched in a multitude of ways, he also reminds us that he is not simply a plaything to pet or a warm body to snuggle next to on a cold winter’s night. Being able to share our lives with him comes with the seemingly inconvenient caveats of curtailed travel plans, limited houseguests, and schedules that revolve around maintaining his routine as much as possible. But the sacrifices that we gladly make to ensure his comfort pales in comparison to the immense rewards we reap from sharing our lives together. We marvel at the stars that lined up on that fateful day in November about a decade ago that brought Ezra’s presence into our lives, a blessing we will cherish forever.