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bella on being present: 11 tips from my dog


live in the moment


Not too long ago, I was reading the book Waiting for Jack: Confessions of a Self-Help Junkie, by Kristen Moeller, and I came across a section on animals and how they help us to live more positive, more present lives. Moeller writes, "By surrounding myself with animals, I have a constant reminder of what is really important to me: being present, unconditional love, deep connections, quiet, and peace. My animals help ground me, help me remember the path I am on."  Though I've contemplated the benefits of pets before, and even wrote about it a little bit in the post "It's a Bella Life," something about Moeller's words really spoke to me and I began giving some serious thought to how much my dog helps to keep me both positive and present.

Moeller writes, "If we are open and willing, animals can teach us to be better humans... Animals can inspire us to be less busy, more present, less worried, more joyful, and more passionate about life. They will never judge us for the things we do or don't do. Animals don't complain. They don't create drama... Their view of the world is immediate. They don't regret the past, fear the future, or take themselves 'so damn seriously.' And they teach us to be excited about the little things, the simple pleasures in life -- dried dog food for dinner (again) never seems to lose its magic." After reading these words, I realized the glaring truth in them. Animals, especially pets, really do help us in all of these ways. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my sweet little Bella is one of the driving forces helping me to stay positive and stay present.

Silly as it may sound, over the past six years, Bella has taught me a great deal about life -- and particularly about being present. I have to admit that she's not the most positive of dogs: she does her best to attack every dog she sees; she often sniffs and rejects the carefully prepared dinner she's been given; she distrusts and shies away from most men; she tugs aggressively at her leash in a rush to get outside; she barks incessantly at every car or truck driving past; and she has no shame when it comes to drinking out of my glass or using her eight-pound body to somehow masterfully hog the bed. But, in spite some of her less-than-positive qualities, she does love unconditionally, live with fierce loyalty, and shows me every single day the little ways that one can be more positive and more present. Here are some of the lessons about being present that I've learned from Bella...


Bella's Tips for Being Present

  • Do less every day. Bella doesn't overwhelm her schedule with To Do lists and appointments and activities. Bella knows how to take it easy. She spends most of her day relaxing and another good chunk of it playing. Now, I know we all would love to play all day long, but since that's not an option for most of us, I think we should all take a tip from Bella and just do less. Make fewer appointments. Schedule fewer activities. And, instead, spend more time living in the moments you're experiencing right now. 

  • Live in the moment. Never once I have noticed Bella fretting about the past or panicking about the future. Bella lives in the moment. Whatever is happening to her right in that particular moment is what she pays attention to. She lives in the now and she doesn't let the past or the present bog her down. Though it's probably easier for her to live in the now (dogs are pretty much built that way), that doesn't mean we all can't strive to emulate her present-living ways and live in the now. 


  • Worry less often. Bella doesn't worry too much. Sure, she gets stressed out when the FedEx delivery person comes to the door and she gets a bit of anxiety when I leave her for too long, but, generally, she's not a worrier. She doesn't worry about things that are out of her control, the way us humans usually do. We could all take a tip from Bella and try our best to worry less. 

  • Experience more joy. There's no joy quite like that of Bella with a new toy. It doesn't matter what it is, but if you give her something new and call it "new toy," that tail is wagging and she's all over it, pawing it and biting it and flipping it up in the air with excitement. She fully understands what it means to live with joy and I plan to start embracing the joyful moments in my life just like Bella does. 

  • Feel passion for life. Just like her ability to be joyful, passion for life is something Bella also possesses. Though it might not seem like it when she's lounging on the couch, Bella truly is passionate about life. Everything she can see or smell is interesting to her. Details are important. She really gets into the things she loves (like playing) and we could all learn from her zest for living. 

  • Stop judging. To me, this is one of the most precious assets of any pup: they don't judge. Bella doesn't judge me when I make a mistake (even if it somehow effects her, like if I oversleep and don't take her out until later in the morning). And, maybe more important, Bella doesn't judge herself. She accepts everything for what it is and goes with it, something I truly aspire to do. 


  • Avoid complaining. Life has some pretty big highs and lows sometimes and I know it can be difficult not to complain, but look at how dogs handle most situations...They deal. If they're hot or cold or tired or hungry, they cope with it. Yes, sometimes there's a little bit of whining involved, but generally they wait patiently until things get better. Remember the one thing dogs seem to know well: complaining gets you nowhere. 

  • Don't create drama. Whether you want to admit it or not, most people create a little bit of drama for themselves. Sometimes it's purposeful and other times its unconscious, but, either way, it's something many people do. Dogs don't do this. They face whatever situations they're given and they deal with them directly. They don't avoid or rationalize or blame -- and we'd be a lot better off if we didn't either! 

  • Form deep connections. Those of you who have (or have had) a pet probably know this: the bond between a pet and his/her owner is one of the strongest bonds out there. I love Bella pretty much unconditionally and I know she loves me unconditionally. It's rare to find a close connection with anyone, let alone a dog, but it's an important thing to have. Bella has taught me that close connections are one of the best ways to stay present. 

  • Learn to be at peace. Right now, I'm looking over at Bella, who is in the exact same spot as the picture above and she looks completely at peace with the world. She's lying down, observing the world around her, looking as if she's contemplating life's big mysteries. But she's not. She's just in the now, watching birds in the trees, the cars driving past, people walking to the Metro on the way to work. She's at peace -- and I hope to take what I see in her and experience within myself. 

  • Look for magic. This is one of the best lessons I've learned from Bella. She's always looking around her, nose in the dirt or carpet, hunting for something special. Yes, she's probably looking for the scent of other animals or a crumb left behind by the vacuum, but she's inadvertently taught me to pay attention to the little things, to the magic in life. Even the most routine things for her are exciting and, when I see that little tail wagging with joy, I can't help but be reminded that in everything, even the most mundane things like taking a walk down the same sidewalk, there is magic. 

Already in her six short years of life, Bella is mastering something that most of us never fully do: living now. No matter how much I focus on living in the now, it's always a little bit difficult. There are things to think about in the future. There are things from the past that are sometimes hard to let go. And it's for that reason that I'm so thankful to have Bella in my life as a constant reminder to live in the now. As I'm finishing up this post, she's still peering out the window, head turning with every passerby and car going past. Looking at her, I'm yet again reminded of the sweet serenity that comes with living in the present, in living without dwelling on the past or frantically preparing for the future. She, like all animals, is an inspiration, a constant reminder, to live now and be fully present in our lives. 

How do the animals in your life help you stay present? 
In addition to what I've mentioned above,
 what else have your pets taught you about living in the moment? 


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I've never had a pet since september 2009, and it was a bless! I did'n imagine that a dog could help me in so many ways!

I found myself smiling very often, because she is always happy and cheerful, and funny. It's gourgeous how the bound between us become stronger as the time passes!

I learned a lot from my Stella, and my mum says we are becoming similar ahah
I am a much more present and playful person now, I found beauty and happyness in little things (and sometimes I enter in the kitchen smelling with my nose up in the air, just like the doggy ahah)

The post "It's a Bella life" was one of the first posts I've read on your site, and had a huge impact on me, it was one of the things that convinced me to take a puppy even if it is a big commitment!

I was so depressed one year ago, and now I am really well (I worked hard on many aspect though), and on my mental "to do list" there is always "play" as one of the things to's fantastic! we go out and play careless two-three times a day and it makes me so happy!

Sara - Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on how having a pet has impacted your life! It makes me so happy to hear that the first post I wrote about Bella helped to convince you to get a puppy. Dogs really are amazing creatures and they can have such positive impacts on our lives. As you noted, it's important to work on many aspects of our lives if we want to be positive and present, but having a loving pet around can really help us. I'm so happy your dog makes so you so happy!

I agree that sometimes we must look up to our smaller friends and their ways of dealing with life. This is a good post (as every one you post here. I liked that one about staying positive at work, it's something I can relate to.

I wanted to share a link to comics about what lessons we all can learn from a dog. I stumbled upon it once and I think it may be appropriate.

Thank you for this thoughtful post! It truly is amazing how dogs really can remind us to be joyful and excited about the little things in life. My dog, also named Bella, has made every day since I got her happier and less serious. :)

What a beautiful post!! I can't even imagine what it would be like to live without fur-babies!
Wise sages, playful friends, unconditional love ~ all in one neat package ~

May I quote Bella's tips on my blog? I would, of course, give her full credit!! ;-)))

Oh my. I wish you knew how much this made me smile - literally. Starting from that adorable picture at the top. My pup Stella has truly changed me. She's taught me to enjoy just sitting in the back yard, to greet my husband with joy every time he comes home, and to take walks more often. And I love her more than I ever thought I would. It's just amazing how dogs work their way into our hearts!

Natty - Our smaller friends definitely have some some great inspiration for us. Thanks so much for the compliment about the post! I'm looking forward to checking out the link. Thanks so much for sharing it.

Stacy - You're welcome! Dogs are amazing and especially those named Bella! :) I'm so glad your Bella has made you happier too.

Bobbie - Thank you! I agree. I cannot imagine life without a wonderful animal in my life. They provide so many positive things to my life. You can absolutely quote Bella on your blog. She would love that! If you could email me the link, that would be great. :)

Eva - Yay! That just put a BIG smile on my face to read that! It truly is amazing how dogs can change our lives and teach us things about life that we didn't know we didn't know. Thanks for your comment. It made me very happy!

She is so cute! I think we can all learn a lot from her, I love the way dogs find joy and excitment in everything, they look at things with new eyes all the time. I don't have a dog but often walk my sisters (which looks very much like Bella, is she a Bison frise?)every walk there is something new and exciting to see, do or smell, even though she may have walked the same route just that morning!
Best wishes,

I have seen my dogs chase dragonflys for hours on end, never catching one, but more than pleased just to be doing it. That is one of the best lessons I have ever learned.

This was an amazing post, and I thank you for sharing.

Rather than focus on less, I focus on finding ways to spend more time doing what I enjoy. It's a simple rule of thumb, but helps me find my way forward. Well, maybe another way to put it is I spend less time doing things I don't enjoy.

Kate - I agree; there's a lot to be learned from little Bella! (Bella's a Maltese, but a lot of people think she looks like a Bison because she has the puppy cut.) Dogs are always finding new, exciting things, which really is so inspiring!

Joshua - I'm so happy you liked the post. It was one of my favorites to write because it really made me realize how important my little Bella is and how much I can learn from her. It's pretty amazing how dogs can focus on something and live so in the moment. We can learn so much from them!

J.D. - That's a good point and definitely echos the sentiments of the first tip from Bella. Another way to think about doing less is to think of it as doing more of what you love. I like thinking of it that way -- much more positive!

What a fabulous celebration in tribute to the lil bella who is so getting it right! This is such a happy post. Our fur babies teach us in so many ways. :)

LivingaBalancedLife - Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed this post and it made you happy. It made me very happy (and grateful!) to write it. Thanks for your comment!

Bella is a wise being. The first bit of advice - do less, is the one that I find most important. I have been experimenting in a few areas of my life with this and have found that in many cases, the less I do, the more I accomplish! Funny how that works! I suggest that in addition to dogs, humans give it a try!

H&W - Yes, she is and I'm so lucky to have her in my life! I agree that the first one is pretty important. I've also found that when I do less, I get more done. It does seem funny, but it's true!

Ahhhhhh! I love it! The lesson still continues for me. When I wrote "Waiting for Jack" our beloved Jaxson was still alive. So many lessons came from him. Now our puppy Tigger is a constant reminder to "Stop and smell the puppy breath".

Thank you for sharing about my book! I am truly honored!

Kristen Moeller

Kristen - Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I loved what you wrote about animals in your book and it was such an inspiration for me to look to my little Bella and see what lessons I've learned from her. I'm sorry to hear about the loss of Jaxson (I remember him from the book!), but it sounds like Tigger is a great reminder to live in the moment.

This post made me smile :)

So simple, yet so true!

Leiah - So glad you smiled when you read this. Animals can teach us so much about life and it's great to learn from their simple, yet so true, way of living.

Hi! Love the post and the image of Bella. Is she, by chance, a coton de tulear? She looks similar to my coton, Clara, who is a curious, clownish cuddly cottony ball of energy.

Clara's Human - Thanks for your comment! Bella's actually a Maltese, but she has a "puppy cut" so she looks a little different than the typical Maltese. I'm happy to hear that you have a great little pup in your life to bring you happiness!

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