Lesson 40: Dogs Know How to Receive Gifts

An excerpt from Dogs Don't Bite When a Growl Will Do

Celeste is allergic to so many foods that she can no longer have a dog biscuit for her evening treat. Instead, she has a rice cake. But Celeste is just as excited as she can be about her ritual evening gift. Her joyful anticipation of her nightly snack makes it fun for both of us. I hold the rice cake up in the air and Celeste sits and looks longingly at her treat. Then, she shifts her gaze to stare into my eyes, as if to say, "Enough of this dog training already -- let's have it!"

As soon as I say, "Take it!" she leaps into the air and grabs it out of my hand and prances over to her dog bed. She prolongs her evening treat longer than I could believe possible by daintily gnawing at it bit by tiny bit. She obviously enjoys the gift, and shows her appreciation by wagging her tail enthusiastically when I walk over and ask her how she likes it.

I don't know if it is actually "better to give than to receive," but I do know that giving is a lot easier than receiving for some people. There is a certain vulnerability involved in truly receiving a gift fully and in letting in the gesture of love that accompanies it. When Celeste is chomping on her rice cake, she's not thinking, "I don't deserve this," or "You shouldn't have," or "This is not really what I wanted," or "This is so embarrassing," or "Now I have to get something for you." Her entire being radiates, "This is great! Just what I needed! How thoughtful of you!" Her enthusiastic acceptance of whatever gifts I have to share makes me feel wonderful about being able to provide these little presents for her.

One of the things that many great spiritual teachers have taught is that if we can only take from others and are unable to give, then we are failing to love. On the other hand, if we are able only to give and not receive, then we are probably using our giving merely as a way to try to control other people. True happiness, they say, comes through finding a balance between giving and receiving.

When we learn to both give and receive gifts with no strings attached, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, then we get to discover an even deeper gift -- the gift of love that comes along with being in a relationship with those we care about.

--Learn more--

--from Dogs Don't Bite When a Growl Will Do, by Matt Weinstein and Luke Barber, Copyright © November 2003, The Berkley Publishing Group, a member of The Penguin Group, Inc., used by permission.

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