Published on September 20, 2021 in Life Newer post   Older post

How do you measure time? Is it calendar years, your age, life milestones, how old your children are, what dog you had at a particular time? In a life full of clocks and calendars, they are just that. Just. Data.

For example, I know that when my Dad was 90, he hit head, had a brain bleed, and has suffered the effects of traumatic brain injury, including dementia, since then. I don’t remember the year he hit his head. I just remember how old he was. And I know how old he is now. It has been a very long six years for me. Those same six years have seemed like months to him. He still talks about getting well, when he will walk on his own again. He thinks COVID has been going on for a few months. We do not experience time in the same way. We mark it differently. And frankly his optimism and time compression sound pretty attractive to me a lot of days.

Many people say that “dogs don’t have a sense of time.” If you live with a dog, I bet you don’t believe that for a second. Chances are your dog doesn’t know how to read a clock, but I bet he knows when it is time for dinner. He most certainly knows the difference in when you have been gone for an hour and when you are gone for a day. In fact, research shows that many dogs know when their owners leave the office, and are standing at the door a few minutes before they come home. The fact that you get the same enthusiastic greeting whether you’ve been gone one minute or eight hours doesn’t mean your dog doesn’t know the difference – it just means she loves you and is happy to see you. Every time. All the time.

I don’t know how dogs mark time, other than I think they are in sync with the rhythm of the day, sunrise and sunset. Do they know how long ago a particular event occurred? Does it matter? Or does it just matter that they remember the event happening and it makes them feel good that it did? Or tragically, that they remember their abuse like it was yesterday, even if it was years ago. Their lives are so much shorter than ours. Is time compressed like it is for my Dad? Does it seem to be flying by?

I don’t know the answer to these questions. I do think that living life in the moment, with the natural rhythm of the day, is probably a lot closer to the way humans lived until the last century. My favorite vet used to say, “try to more like your dog. He’s not worried about how he is going to feel tomorrow or what is going to happen.” I think that is good advice. We could all take a lesson from my Dad and our dogs: the minutes, days, and years don’t have meaning. They are just data. It is what happens during those days, the memories that we make, the time spent with those we love that matters. So put aside those calendars and clocks now and then, and just breathe with your dog and the rhythm of the day. It might be a little slice of paradise that you savor, even if later you don’t remember what day you did it.


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