This is Gus. We first met when he was one of nine in a pile of 8-week-old puppies. I was smitten: dog-love at first sight. I knew that I had found My Dog (or rather, that he had found me). This 15 lbs of belly and wiggly tail and giant head and ears and who knew how large the rest of the animal would get…this was My Animal. It was clear that I was His Human.
I spent two weeks reading articles and researching the breed. The articles always had caveats and cautionary tales about German Shorthaired Pointers (GSPs). Yet, the reasons not to get a GSP were all the reasons I couldn’t resist:
GSPs need loads of training: They are smart, eager to learn and loyal. They are working dogs and always want to please. Give them a task and they will Get it! Find it! Look!
GSPs need to be active: See. Spot. Run. (And run and run and run.)
GSPs are prone to separation anxiety. These are “Velcro-dogs” that select their human and stick close. Keep them active (read: tired) and entertained (and well-trained), and they do just fine. Allow them to sit by you (All. The. Time.), watch you work, accompany you anywhere and everywhere possible. They need to know you like them (not so different from humans, n’est-ce pas?).
What the articles fail to elaborate on is that these dogs are the funniest, sweetest, humblest 75-lb lap dogs you will ever meet. Every GSP I have met has had virtually the same personality. And, so, 12 years on, I realize our short time together is fleeting. This ridiculous and wonderful, smelly and soft mélange of fur and fun and farts and dog spit has made me a better human.
And to celebrate these amazing years with my best dog ever, on January 1st of this year I embarked (pun intended) on a mission to take a photo of Gus each day and share it on Instagram. InstaGus is a celebration of this animal who has stood by my side (on my butt, on my lap, on my foot, all this!) through some trying times these last few years.
It is a testament to the times he makes me laugh when everything around me is going to crap. It is a tribute to the art of not taking everything to heart; to the practice of focusing on what’s important; to the daily rituals that get us out of our ruts and out of our heads and out into the world on miles and miles of walks or into the woods, where I let him choose the trails sometimes.
Gus isn’t as quick as he used to be (he’s 84+ in human years, has had two blown ACLs and thousands of trail miles under his belt, erm, collar…), but the G-dog still holds his own.
My photo series has been an outlet for random dog wisdom, world views, canine logic and a way to better appreciate the little things through the eyes of this silly beast. We’re at the half-way mark on this Year of Gus, and I think it’s been a success thus far. We’ve met many new insta-dogs from around the world and we’ve had great fun on our daily photo shoots.
Here’s what I’ve noticed along the way: we humans over-complicate the world. Dogs don’t care about who’s running for president or where someone’s from, what color, faith, or gender someone lives their life. What’s important is the little things: Is this a good human? Are they kind? Do they share and love and respect and laugh and play fair? Do they have any treats? Might they give us a little scratch between the eyes or behind the ears? Would they mind if we curl up next to them under the covers, even on warm nights, just to know that home is somewhere safe and warm?
I think dogs have rather got it all figured out, haven’t they?
Lesli Woodruff is a yogi, writer, photographer, and traveler. She works as an Instructional Designer to support Gus’ extravagant lifestyle. She’s written previously about what’s she’s learned from Gus, and has also shared some her favorite musings from her Year of Gus on Medium.