20 April 2024 09:29 AM



Timeless and "Timely" Lessons Learned from a Dog

I first landed in America in 2015 for a graduate study in law. To start this journey, I had to leave my friends and family behind in India. I also had to part with an adopted member of my family, a dog named Rambo. A Himalayan sheep-dog, Rambo, was gifted to me by a colleague from a remote village in the Indian state of Uttarakhand near the India-Tibet border while I was working with a grassroots development organization.

Rambo currently resides with my parents in India.

The reason I have chosen my dog, Rambo, as the subject of this work is not because I miss him, but because of what I have learned from him over a period of three years while he was my close companion. Considering the recent developments, political and otherwise, I think there is not a more opportune time than now to discuss what Rambo taught me.

When you think of a dog, perhaps the first image in your mind comes of the dog wagging its tail. They sure do so and so does my dog, but with a lot of poise and style. However, by no means am I drawing your attention to that aspect of a dog’s physiology and neither do I want us to emulate that action, metaphorically speaking. Well, some people do that anyway and there is no stopping them, so to speak.

Although every dog has its own character, the traits may vary based on the breed and upbringing. Dogs, including Rambo, invariably exhibit a set of attributes that may be characterized as “timeless” and “non-diluting.” I personally can list numerous such attributes such as being playful and energetic, however, I wish to invoke the canine attributes, which are not only timeless and non-diluting, but also “timely.”

First, “every day is a new day.” Unlike humans, dogs do not carry any baggage from the past. Whether a dog has had an unpleasant experience with someone in the previous day, month or even year, a dog looks forward to a new day with extreme vitality, hope, and happiness.

The dog does not hold any grudges against any person/s of the human species even if some of them may have treated him unpleasantly in the past. With the inherent innocence in him, a dog strives to spend every new day with all in the best way possible and with extending warmth and love for all.

Second, “you are his pack for life.” The day you adopt a dog, your family becomes his family or “pack.” Like many animal species, dogs tend to appropriately find their hierarchy in the pack. Even with the hierarchy, a dog has same love for every member of his pack. Indeed, you will be his family for life and your home will be his home, which he guards forever unless, you yourself abandon him.

Dogs do not demand a favorable or prioritized treatment within the pack. Despite being an adopted member who does not speak the same language or is not even of the same species, a dog is loyal to us even more than some members of our own species.

Third, “shower you with love regardless of your color, class, political beliefs or faith.” A dog, to my knowledge, does not show any discrimination toward people on the basis of their religion, language or the skin color. Whether you are rich or with lesser means, a dog always displays generous love to you and your family. Indeed, he is more affectionate and indulging toward the younger members and at the same time, as warm toward the senior and elderly members.

Fourth, “kind-hearted, affectionate, and supportive.” Often times, I have felt that dogs have a sixth sense and they can smell any negative emotions in you. Specifically, when you are feeling low or dejected, they will sense it and will do whatever they can to show their care and warmth toward you. Your near and dear ones may leave you at the lowest phase of your life but your dog will stand beside you through thick and thin, no matter what.

From the time that I spent with Rambo, I learned a great deal from him. I learned that communicating and teaching may happen even without uttering a word. Although, preaching others may be a way, for some, to teach others, I learned that the best way to teach others is by one’s rightful conduct and by setting a precedent. A dog rightly does so.

I learned that notwithstanding the never-ending daily rituals where conflicts, disagreements, and a sense of competition with one another creep in, one must not lose the “timeless” values that Mother Nature has instilled in human species as much as it has in some other species such as the canines. I learned that humans too are inherently good and possess, deep down, the timeless values, such as kindness; compassion; loyalty; sympathy; equity; helping others in the time of sorrow and misery and; loving and respecting all regardless of color, creed, nationality, and faith.

I have learned that these timeless values have also become very “timely,” particularly in the present unpredictable times. It is highly imperative that one must implore these timeless and timely values –which are also inherent in all of us – and treat every member of the human species as a member of their own pack, particularly in today’s times when many people are suffering the scourge of terrorism, civil conflicts, ethnic strife, and forced migrations.

Lastly, I have learned that we humans are better endowed than the canines, and therefore, the onus is on us to stand beside other members of our human pack through thick and thin.

(Divesh Kaul is an academic, currently working on his doctoral dissertation at Tulane University Law School, USA, with a focus on international economic law. He has previously taught in Bhutan and India, and worked in non-profit sector. )