I am very fortunate that my father visits us often, and I recently realized how much my sons are learning from their grandfather, the same way that I learned from mine.
I’ve talked a lot about what my grandfather taught me about Nature, but his lessons were so much more than that. And, with my own sons soon approaching the age where they might make me a grandfather, I want to share one of the things that dogs cannot teach us.
Unlike most human fathers, dog fathers are not involved with their offspring at all. Their job is done at conception and the mother dog would probably attack him if he tried to approach the litter. Puppies are raised by their mothers, and don’t know who their fathers are.
Dogs do not build family relationships the same way that humans do. In the wild, most members of a pack may be related by blood, but dogs don’t identify other members of the pack as sibling, cousin, aunt, or nephew. They only identify each other as more dominant, more submissive, or more or less energetic.
Humans, on the other hand, are very aware of familial connections, whether by blood or marriage, and most of us know who our parents and grandparents and other relatives are. Thanks to the popularity of genealogy, a lot of people know who their ancestors are going back hundreds of years.
But the one thing that most humans know and no dogs do is who their grandparents are, and most of us have been fortunate enough to spend at least some time with them. And so, unlike dogs, we are able to transmit experience and information across generations.
Today is National Grandparents Day, so in honor of that here are some of the things my grandfather taught me.
Work with Mother Nature, never against her.
Being a farmer, my grandfather worked directly with Nature, and the only way to have successful crops and livestock was to follow Nature’s rules.
This meant paying careful attention to planting and harvesting times and the cycle of seasons; knowing when to plant a field and when to leave it empty; knowing which crops to plant together and which to keep apart.
It also meant knowing how to allow the farm dogs to do their jobs in herding the cattle and sheep, and how to use the instincts of the livestock to keep these huge animals under control.
Respect other living things.
Yes, the cattle on the ranch eventually wound up on someone’s dinner table, but that doesn’t mean that we didn’t treat them humanely while they were with us. The sheep had to be sheared for their wool, but my grandfather always tried to make it as un-traumatic an experience as possible.
The dogs on the farm were definitely not pets. They lived outside, fed on scraps, and didn’t even have names. But they were a part of the team, and nobody ever beat or kicked them or abused them to get them to work. They didn’t have to. My grandfather instinctively let the dogs be dogs, and that was really the highest form of respect. In return, he had a balanced working pack that always knew what to do without being told.
And, of course, we shouldn’t have to be told to respect each other.
Work is its own reward.
Without electricity, the schedule on the farm relied on the sun. Sun came up? Time to go to work. Sun went down? Time to go to sleep.
Between sunrise and sunset, there was always something to be done, and if it didn’t get done, then there was something wrong. Thanks to my grandfather, I appreciate the power of working non-stop while I’m awake. Doing that is a large part of the reason I’m where I’m at today.
Life is too short to lie.
As the saying goes, “If you always tell the truth, then you’ve got a lot less to remember,” and this is so true. I can’t think of any good reasons to lie. Animals generally can’t lie, so this is another case of following Nature. For humans, lying is just a way to protect our egos, but it will always backfire in the end.
The most important people in your life are the ones you love.
Some of my fondest memories are those moments when I spend time with family and friends, and it all started on my grandfather’s farm when we’d all gather after sunset for dinner. No matter how hectic the work day had been, we never skipped over this moment, and neither have I. Work may be its own reward, but don’t work so hard that you can’t take time out to spend with the people who are important to you.
If you’re fortunate enough to still have any or all of your grandparents alive, call them or visit, or take a moment to think about what you’ve learned from grandparents who are no longer around.
Stay calm, and remember your ancestors.
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