A Dog's Lesson About the Rat Race

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Sometimes in life things tend to connect, and it really is amazing to see the connection of items as you go through life. I know there are times when I am going through something or thinking about something and the message that week at church is connected directly.

It felt like the same thing occurred to me after watching “Christopher Robin.” I knew that I was going to write an article about the message, but it took me about three weeks to sit down and write. During that timespan two more connections came up. I started reading “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown and my wife changed the channel one night to Marley and Me.

Related: Doing Nothing often Leads to the Very Best of Something

I had seen Marley and Me before, but I didn’t remember every detail. I was intrigued and I watched the rest of the movie that night (even my wife didn’t stay up to watch). During my previous article, I wanted to add in my thoughts on Marley and Me, but I thought I would wait. The article was long and it didn’t exactly connect with the message that I wanted to send.

The message that I want to portray, was best stated by John Grogan, author of Marley and Me. This piece of writing was used as the last lines of the movie. Once listening to these lines, I automatically dug into our copy of the book to see if those lines were by chance in the book. Of course they were!

The message from these lines was clear and it is something we all know, but tend to forget as our lives get busy and we get stuck in the rat race. Below is an excerpt from chapter 28 in the book Marley and Me.

“Was it possible for a dog - any dog, but especially a nutty wildly uncontrollable one like ours - to point humans to the things that really mattered in life? I believed it was. Loyalty. Courage. Devotion. Simplicity. Joy. And the things that did not matter, too. A dog has no use for fancy cars or big homes or designer clothes. Status symbols mean nothing to him. A water logged stick will do just fine. A dog judges others not by their color or creed or class but by who they are inside. A dog doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his. It was really quite simple, and yet we humans, so much wiser and more sophisticated, have always had trouble figuring out what really counts and what does not.” - John Grogan

Five days after watching Marley and Me, my mom texted me to let me know that Mowgli her 10 year old yorkie had passed away. He was struggling with diabetes, blindness and weight loss. She had told me that Mow had felt weak the night before and she thought it might be his last night.

As I look back at my time with Mowgli, I remember a little ball of fur with more energy than the energizer bunny. I didn’t get to spend that much time with Mow as my Mom got him in 2008, while I was in college. So, most of my time with him was while I was at home for visits. The beautiful thing about being home on a visit is that I had lots of free time.

I would just spend hours throwing the ball. He would bring it back and I would throw it again for him. He just wanted a toy or a ball and somebody to throw it for him. Nothing else really mattered to Mowgli. He would just play as long as somebody would play with him.

Sometimes we would get tired of throwing the ball and we would take a break. Mowgli had a way to get your attention. He would magically lose the ball under the hutch (it seemed like the same spot every time). This prompted a whining or a cry that eventually brought somebody that would free the ball from under the hutch. He knew that this person would at least throw the ball once.

Mowgli wanted to play constantly. And I loved this about him, because I enjoyed playing with him. He was the first dog that we had that really liked to play fetch. Still to this day, I have never met another dog that loved fetch as much Mowgli loved fetch (My wife and I own two dogs of our own).

Mowgli wasn’t an uncontrollable dog, like Marley, but he was such a different dog that taught me something along the way. It’s okay to play. We humans can forget this fact. We can get bent out of shape about everything being perfect that we forget to go out and play. We can get stuck in the rat race of our everyday lives and not make time to have fun.

This was another important point of Greg McKeown’s book “Essentialism.” The seventh chapter of this book is titled, “Play,” and begins with a quote from Roald Dahl.

“A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men.” - Roald Dahl

In this chapter, Greg talks about how the educational system actually kills the ability for kids to be creative through play. He even talks about the idea that play is trivial as a systematic thinking that most people go through life believing.

He references many studies that point to the importance of play. One of which I want to mention is a study from Stuart Brown. He is the founder of the National Institute for Play. In his research he has discovered that play has the power to significantly improve everything from education to relationships to personal health. He goes as far as to say, “Play leads to brain plasticity, adaptability and creativity.”

I see this every time we play a game with family. Luckily, my family finds time to play. We play baseball, flag football, cards, board games, corn hole and even play at the park. These times are the greatest and something that I can’t wait to do at each family gathering.

The co-hosts of ChooseFI also talk about the importance of play. Specifically, they talk about spending time with family and friends playing board games. One of the hosts, Brad, has even mentioned playing a board game three times in one week. When was the last time you could say you did that?

We don’t take enough time as a society to have fun anymore and Mowgli is a good reminder of the importance of finding time to play. You can find time to play, if you get away from being caught up with the status symbols, the fancy new cars, and the designer clothes.

Those are all things that will keep you in perpetual debt. Rid yourself of these status symbols and start taking back your life. Live more like a dog. Love each other and find time to have fun.

John Grogan didn’t know that he was sending a message about finding your way towards financial independence in his book Marley and Me, but his message is clear to me. We can learn a lot from a dog, and the lessons that we learn can help us put more focus on what is important in life.

Things like family, time, and play. Time is a nonrenewable resource. We are all getting older and our time on this planet is finite. Never let the trivial things get in the way of doing the important things in your life. We as a society are too busy and let our rat race life control our time. Instead, prioritize what it is important in your life. Work is not the most important, I’ll tell you that!

Mowgli and Marley have taught us an important lesson, but as I close this article, I want to walk down memory lane one more time with Mowgli. I had been home for probably 2 weeks. Mowgli and I played everyday for two weeks. As I was preparing to leave for Texas, Mowgli always got so sad when he knew I was leaving.

This time he was going to try to do something about it. The door to my car was open and he hopped in, hoping he could ride with me. This time he couldn’t as I was leaving for months and he was my Mom’s dog. Mowgli and I had a special bond. A bond formed around play. A bond that I will never forget.

In Memory of a Special Dog, Mowgli

July 28, 2008 - February 17, 2019

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