The marriage market is glutted with advice books from psychologists and relationship experts, and the advice can be both complicated and conflicted. There isn’t only one type of successful marital relationship. How can there be when the human race is comprised of uniquely individual personalities who want uniquely designed relationships?
Imagine my curiosity when I was sent a seemingly silly little relationship book that urges us to pattern our human relationships after, of all animals, a dog. Admittedly, dogs do have a remarkable gift for simplifying life and finding the joy in the present moment. Not to minimize the serious struggle that marriages face, there is something to be said for returning to the basics. All the compromising, communicating and negotiating during marriage counseling sessions just might be the hard way of improving your relationship. Why not take the advice of a dog?
The title “Pee on it and walk away” while cute doesn’t bode well for a marriage improvement book. A divorce book maybe. There comes a time in an irreparable marriage when one should just pee on it and walk away, but my goal as marriage editor here at Bellaonline is to help people find ways and reasons to stay married. Perhaps a better title for a dog’s marriage improvement book should be “Sit. Stay. Good dog.” or “Fetch. Speak. Roll over.” Just kidding.
In any case, the book is written from the perspective of a 13-year-old chihuahua mix named Abby and by her owners Esther Yang and Roger Ziegler. Having two chis of my own, I was partial to the front cover featuring Abby’s adorable little furry face. The book’s illustrations are a combination of real life photographs and cartoon-like doodlings. Yang is an Indonesian-born healer, psychotherapist and yoga instructor; Ziegler is an award-winning journalist, author and life coach. Abby is fortunate to have such accomplished and connected spokespeople for her thoughts.
So what are Abby the dog’s thoughts and advice?
Here are a few of Abby’s thoughts and why I think they are apt marital recommendations:
“Winning is not about being right. It’s about getting and keeping the pack together.” Feuding couples forget that they’re on the same side. It’s never in the best interest of a marriage to take a “me-against-you” stance. The focus should be on what is good for the marriage unit and family. Don’t let your ego get in the way.
“See them better than they see themselves.” I love this one. Isn’t it the way dogs see us, their owners? When we walk through the door, our chis greet us as though it has been a decade since they’ve seen us, a magical combination of God, Santa Claus, their guardian angels incarnate and their best friend. We’re the most important people in their world who bring food, safety, love, laughter, playfulness and oodles of gushing adoration and cuddles. No wonder they love us unconditionally. Do I see my spouse better than he sees himself? Yes, I do. But when I greeted him at the door with the same effulgent enthusiasm as our chis, he and the dogs thought I lost my mind. Although he did laugh as he wiped my slobber off his cheek and was happy with a concrete demonstration of how I think he’s terrific.
Two odd inclusions: “Calm yourself by chanting, meditating or doing a rain dance” none of which dogs have been known to do, unless you count sleeping in the sun as a sleep meditation and “Write a sit com with all the material they’re giving you” again not typical dog behavior. Also, a few of the illustrations were of non-canines which seemed a bit out of place in this book.
Not a dog’s world
Alas, the advice falls short of addressing the weightier and more practical matters of marriage. Who’s going to keep the bones in the dish and the doghouse roof overhead when there are hungry puppies to nurse? How do you fight nature to resist the b-tch in heat on the street? Maybe there will be Part II of this book to address those thoughts.
Still, the sweet sentiments in this gift-y book are fun to read. I believe that a lot of the world’s ills could be cured with simple, light-hearted thinking. I can see this book tucked into a nice gift basket for canine owners, along with other doggie and human treats. You might want to fetch a copy for your dog-loving spouse and see if he can learn a new trick or two.
*Note: A promotional copy was sent to this editor for review.