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  • Writer's pictureTalia Cooper

What dogs can teach us about being in our bodies

by Kate Greene

I recently spent 10 days dog-sitting a black lab and a pitbull mix. Here are 4 things I learned about being embodied from observing their world.

1) Take joy in the familiar

Different from babies who are in awe of all things new to them, the experience of these dogs was maybe like that of preschoolers – one of creativity, playfulness, and possibility amidst the seemingly mundane. Whether it was a walk in the neighborhood, a fresh-cut lawn, playing in the same backyard every day, or even resting on the cool hard floor, they provided inspiration for waking up to new ways of interacting with even familiar experiences.

2) Find the fun in movement

Dogs don’t exercise– they just enjoy moving!

If you’ve spent any time with dogs, you’re probably familiar with the classic “rolling on the back” in the grass. Legs in the air, head tilted back, body flinging from one side to the other. This was an experience of grass like no other!

One of the most wonderful things I witnessed was when the pitbull wormed his way on his belly through a grassy lawn, cool and damp from rainfall earlier that day. Refreshing!

On local trails, they’d sometimes speed up, eager to get moving – at times, impressing me with their speed – and other times slowing down or completely stopping to enjoy whatever was in front of them. Their pace was dictated by what felt right, not a predetermined exercise routine.

A stick in the woods could be broken, carried, or happily shared. I learned that anything could be a toy – even their own arms and legs!

I quickly deemed them “yogi dogis.” Their downward facing dog stretches (a fitting name!) allowed them to find space from their underarms through their spine in ways that expended energy and provided relief. On their bellies, they’d find length from fingers to toes in a full-body stretch, reaching evenly in both directions. On their backs, inviting vulnerability and showing trust, they wiggled from side-to-side, radiating pure joy.

Where could you pause on your neighborhood walk and find a deeper experience through your senses? What stretches feel most natural in your body?

3) Remember to rest and take breaks

Even on the floor these dogs found rest, feeling grounded by the support below, and welcoming my comforting hands on their backs. The touch of another can invite such peace.

They reminded me to take a break from work with the nudge of a couple heads at my desk, or the licking of my ankles, trying to catch my attention with an invitation for cuddles or an opportunity to step outside.

Where I would normally go outside for a quick break with a purpose – take out the trash, bring in the mail, or talk on the phone – I found myself standing outside with them just to stand outside. I let the sun greet me in a warm embrace.

Did you know the morning dew is something to relish? These two delighted in dew in more ways than I knew possible. Through touch, taste, and smell, they’d brush up against tall grasses and soft bushes, guided by the search for new smells – then, suddenly pausing at the sound of birds squawking or frogs croaking.

Many days, I’d find the pitbull sunbathing, finding the spot where the light streams through the open window, providing a perfect spot to soak it all in. At night, they’d both curl up in the fetal position, finding a way to cuddle their own bodies and licking their paws for soothing self care.

If furniture was removed, where could you find comfort? Can you get curious about your energy level and what it inspires in you?

4) Find satisfaction in food… your way! (And enjoy the treats!)

Though their food was a fixed meal of delicious little dark brown bites of Purina, they each had their own way of enjoying it. While one would graze throughout the day, the other would eat her portion right up, both finding satisfaction in their unique experience of the same meal. Our grazing friend would emerge from his bowl with short bursts of energy, while our all-at-once buddy would find a cozy spot to curl up after each meal.

As expected, both friends were excited for any and all treats, accepting them whenever offered. Eyes lit up, tongues out, free from guilt and shame.

A few last thoughts

I know we’re not going to suddenly default to ‘dog mode’ and not be our rational human selves, thinking and feeling our way through life with numerous responsibilities and pressures. It would be quite strange if we rolled around in the grass (though I won’t laugh if you try!). But I am thinking about what the experience of dogs can teach us about expanding our own experience in our bodies.

What if our physical experience in the world was less time-bound and distance-conscious, and more about the possibilities of interacting with our environment with curiosity, creative movement, and all that our senses have to offer? How can we relish in all that we’re capable of – both fast and slow? How can playfulness greet us on both ends?

Kate Greene (she/her) started her “body journey” with Talia during the pandemic and enjoys exploring new and liberating experiences with food, movement, and body image. As a licensed social worker, she holds a passion for holistic, community-based care. One of her greatest joys is facilitating experiences for connection, growth, and meaning making. Kate is a yoga instructor, mikveh guide, and serves on the YWCA Boston’s advocacy committee. Other passions include theater, creative writing, and Friday night shabbat! New to Boston during the pandemic, she enjoys getting out and exploring the beautiful northeast with her husband.


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