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I know, I know—your dog is the best dog in the whole world, or cat, or rodent, or bird. No matter the species, perhaps your loving pet kept you sane through the insanity of 2017. But a new year looms, accompanied by the annual pressure to declare resolutions. For inspiration, I observed my favorite furry, four-legged friend, who isn’t even my pet.

Jack is a dear friend with a dear miniature Schnauzer named Zshisha (pronounced similarly to Zsa Zsa). Travelling for work, Jack needed a new dog sitter. My partner and I gladly agreed, becoming de facto dog parents. Jack knew he had no worries because after a few visits, Zshisha recognized our street and would start bouncing excitedly. On her first overnight stay, Zshisha was so happy she stopped her rowdy romp, lifted a paw, and howled—her happy howl, Jack informed us.

This dog is so darn funny, goofy, and silly, sweet and stubborn. She has a beautiful silver coat; long, floppy velvety ears that stick out like wings when perched; a big, black nose; and a tangled beard. Her stubby tail wags often, like a fuzzy metronome. Her mop of bangs veil bright brown eyes.

Zshisha became my silver shadow, a constant source of affection and amusement. We’re about the same age in dog years, but she is far wiser. From observing her, I offer 18 resolutions for 2018.

Begin the day happily with a stretch
Awakening with a grand yawn, tongue protruding like a curl of pink ribbon, Zshisha sticks her butt in the air, arching her back and stretching her front legs, then leans forward, pushing out each hind leg. Canine yoga complete, her tail is always waggin.’ Because it’s a new day with treats, walks, and belly rubs!

Eat only the yummy food and drink lots of water
Mashing expensive, wet dog food over less yummy, dry dog food doesn’t always cover every nugget. Zshisha tosses out the driest, almost with a “ptui.” She slurps often and mightily from her water bowl, her soaked beard dripping a trail. Asking the princess, “Want a treat?” yields hops and twirls of anticipation, the treat gobbled.

Don’t sweat the small stuff
Zshisha’s a very messy girl. As I clean up her kibble and puddles and crumbs, she stares at me like, “Is there a problem?”

Be vulnerable
Zshisha lies on her back, fully exposing herself for a belly rub with complete trust.

Get plenty of rest
Zshisha sleeps, well, day and night—being adorable is exhausting! Announcing “Let’s go to bed,” I often have to pry the limp sack of potatoes disguised as a dog off the sofa, her sleepy eyes accusing, “Seriously? Are you a nurse?”
Zshisha can’t jump on our high bed, so she stands patiently motionless until lifted onto her blanky. Then I rub her belly and whisper in her ears how she’s the best little doggie in the whole world. Dog-whisperer, yep, I claim it proudly.

Comfort the ill
I was feeling flu-ish, so I lay down on our bed. I heard a grunt and a thump, then felt a warm presence. I peeked out from under my blanky to see Zshisha lying near my feet. Somehow, she’d clawed her way up and stayed until I got up, hours later.

Exercise with enthusiasm
“Want to go for a walk?” always elicits dancing in circles, a charge for the door, barks, yowls, pants, and grunts. Adventure awaits! Commencing the walk, she strains her leash, eventually prances briskly, then slowly walks the green mile home.

Be in the now
During walks, Zshisha excitedly engages with her environment. Running here, running there, she sniffs the ground or grass like a Hoover. Distractions—Squirrel! Bunny! Dog! Human!—redirect her intense focus for that moment. But, the goose… Frozen and silent, Zshisha contemplated, “Friend or foe?” until she decided, “Squirrel!”

Avoid yelling; forgive quickly
Sometimes I have to curb Zshisha’s enthusiasm, yelling with my theatre voice: ZSHISHA! She cowers pitifully as if I clubbed her, downcast eyes declaring, “and they call me a bitch.” I comfort her with ear rubs and reassure her with apologies. Immediately, her tail wags forgivingly. “Forget it! Let’s go!”

Pee and poop often
These make a healthy life, and Zshisha is very healthy. Walks always include half a dozen squirts. And OMG! The princess is a poop machine.

Get someone else to pick up your poop
Politicians and corporate execs are, without peer, demonstrating this resolution.

Display appreciation for others
Zshisha is not a face-licking dog. Rare, delicate laps are kisses of love. (Well, that’s what Jack says.) Or maybe they’re the discovery of Cheetos dust.

Be gentle with yourself
Zshisha has a bum hip. When lying down, she gingerly lowers her rear, then gets comfortable with no whimper of complaint.

Claim your personal space
During TV time or in bed, Zshisha cuddles for a bit, then moves away. If I continue petting, she moves further away, gazing sternly. “Enough already.”

Embrace your accomplishments
Every time Zshisha jumps into my barco-lounger, she stands on an arm, posing proudly like Lassie.

Be proud of your beauty
As Ambrose Bierce wrote, “The most affectionate creature in the world is a wet dog.” After withstanding the misery of a bath, shake, shake, shake spraying water everywhere and dancing in circles!

Zshisha loves the hair blower, a substitute for hanging her head out the car window. Toweling her head becomes a game of hide and seek. After a comb-out and removing eye goobers, more withstood miseries, she struts her stuff with her doggie grin as if parading for the Westminster Kennel.

Keep loved ones in sight and greet them joyfully
One of Zshisha’s woofs asks, “Where is everybody?” She has to be near one of us. When we leave the house, Zshisha’s doleful look—like a knife in my heart—seems to implore, “Where are you going? Can I go? Are you coming back?” When we return, Zshisha waddles out, tail wagging, sleepy from a nap, making the sweetest grunts.

Open your heart
People who enter Zshisha’s sight are cause for perked ears and wagging tail. She knows no prejudice of race, body type, or socio-economic status. Instantly, everyone is a friend.

Quite a blueprint for a new year: that last one was a doozie. If we could be more like pets, what a different year 2018 could be.

In July, Zshisha and her daddy moved to Palm Springs, a very sad day. That bitch stole my heart (the four-legged one). Videos of walks and cute pics on my phone must suffice to fill her void. But we’re visiting in February! Yes, Jack, we want to see you, too. Zshisha can’t pick us up at the airport.

If you’re inclined to make New Year resolutions, observe your pets for inspiration. No pets? No worries. Take one from the best little doggie in the whole world: resolve to wag your tail often.

Life is a joyful adventure. Live it.