I push the power button on the television, grab the game controller from the charging cradle, and then quickly remember the mysterious Christmas fruit cake in the refrigerator. Something sweet first? Yes, that would (and will) be delicious.

I take the stairs two at a time, swiftly open the plastic wrap, slice a piece, and return to my blue papasan chair with the fruitcake wedge between my teeth.

Someone’s in my seat.

I quietly walk toward my phone, open the photo-taking app, and snap three quick images of him—the large digital camera, with all of its beeps and tweets, scares him.

His deep black eyes reflect a crescent of window light as my dog stares back at me. I know what he’s thinking—not that I can read canine minds, but we’ve done this routine before: he wants to play video games with me on the PlayStation. I am yet undecided if his true intentions are tied to the gaming experience, or simply sitting with me, but (in either case) this scenario reminds me of a story that I’ve been kicking around the hollows of my brain, awaiting an opportunity to commit it to paper with pen.

Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift. It is not the least reason why we should honor as love the dog of our own life, and the dog down the street, and all the dogs not yet born. ~ Mary Oliver

And here it goes…four important things that I learned from my dog:

  1. Sometimes, you need somebody to watch your back when you poop…
    • I’ve got your six! The phrase is repurposed from military operations—12:00, 3:00, 6:00, 9:00 represent cardinal directions. When dogs are doing their business in the park or yard, they are in a vulnerable position. Your job is to watch their back (6:00), protect them, scare away the predators—that’s your job, as the master.
    • But what about us humans? Don’t we need someone to watch over us—well, maybe not when we are pulling a poo—and protect us too? Of course, everyone needs someone else, just like your dog needs you! Do you have somebody to cover your six, maybe a spouse or sibling or best friend?
  2. Strive for just one good friend…
    • The importance of comradery seems to be lost on the current generation. “But I have 754 friends on Facebook and 573 on Instagram,” you may retort, but I’m talking about genuine friendships. My previous entry, titled Stand By Me, covers the topic of Friends vs. Acquaintances, and I still stick to those sentiments.
    • Everybody needs one good friend to talk with, to share hopes and dreams, and to confess fears and inadequacies—whether that’s your best friend, spouse, mother, or man selling magazines on the street corner. Also, it doesn’t matter if that one single friend is a stuffed weasel with a broken squeaker in the tail: foster that relationship.
  3. Love your family, to the moon and back…
    • Regardless of the day or hour, meet your family at the door when they come home. If you don’t have the relationship with your family that warrants such love and affection…well…that’s on you to correct, foster, or build.
    • Your family is the only guaranteed group of individuals that will love you, regardless of your life choices and actions. I’m making a broad generalization here, and I realize that this is not the defining characteristic of every American household. At least, I believe, that this is how family is meant to be experienced.
    • Humans have a difficult time with the concept of Unconditional Love, or at least most of the humans that I’ve met. We have a tendency to keep a mental tally of another’s Rights and Wrongs (usually, weighing heavily on the latter). This sense of Have-You-Hurt-Me-In-The-Past? could be a survival instinct, I don’t know, but it’s one of mankind’s least admirable traits.
    • Scientists theorize that dogs have a short-term memory of two minutes. After that time span, the past events are gone, discarded: only memories relevant to long-term survival are stored and retained, such as “where is my water bowl?” and “how do I get outside to do my business in the yard?” and “which people do not harm me?” What if we loved like dogs love—loving someone for the person that they are, without all of the attached emotional baggage? What if I simply loved my spouse for the core person that she is, without taking into account all of the perceived Rights and Wrongs of the past? What if my spouse treated me in the same way, without judgment or criticism? What if we treated all people in our circle of influence with unconditional love? I’m sure your world, as would mine, could look much different.
    • Just sometimes, we do things for other people because it makes them feel special, or loved, or appreciated. This is how we should show affection to those of importance in our life—including sitting with them in the comfortable blue chair, while they play video games.
  4. You only need food, water, and shelter to survive, however…
    • During a recent dinner, my daughters were fighting over the last two Tater Tots, each vying for the best smashed potato fragment. “Did you not just hear the story that I told you about the homeless man, who lives on the cold sidewalk, draped in an old sleeping bag, in front of Rite Aid, begging for money or food?,” I sarcastically mention. “There are poor kids in Africa who would love your table scraps,” as my mother would always say to us, as kids—goodness, she may just have been a wise sage.
    • It’s embarrassing at times—and I contribute with my own personal drama—at how we (global definition of we, American citizens) think that we have so many troubles. I think we need to get to a point of gratitude for the objects, luxuries, and conveniences that we do have, instead of what we do not have. I’m talking about minimizing our first-world problems.
    • Sometimes, lumped in with the necessities of life, you can find the word clothing. Food, water, shelter, and clothing; although, if you walk around naked long enough, people would stop commenting on it, and finally accept your fuzzy black body hair as the norm.
    • Nutritious food is necessary for building muscle, bone, and blood. A consistent diet will prolong your life, permitting you more time to spend with your family and loved ones. With that being said, chocolate is heaven-sent, and sometimes you just need to sit in a leather recliner and rip into a whole bag yourself. The blue ones are the best.
    • You can decipher the hierarchy of humans: those who get the prime seat on the couch, those who have a bowl of tortilla chips at their personal disposal, and those who cover themselves with a comfortable electric blanket. Pick those people to hang out with, for they will share their blanket and toss you a chip, from time to time.