Being a dog: a tail of mindfulness by Maria Gianferrari. Illus. by Pete Oswald

cover image

Behaving like a dog is a wonderful idea: not only does it promote the use of the five senses, being more aware of your surroundings and what is happening within you, the tone of the story is very funny, capturing the target audience with funny scenarios, underscoring those behaviours which shrug off worries and concerns in our lives. The author promotes mindfulness and awareness of what makes you feel confident and happy in this laugh out loud book about being a dog. From the start she compares the child with the dog and so directs activities which promote well-being.

After waking up, stretch, wag your body, lap your drink, and then go outside and sniff. Following the dog’s lead, sniff around the backyard; sniff everything there is to sniff, take in the smells of your neighbourhood. Greet other dogs, play each day no matter what the weather is like. Be curious, let the wind ruffle your hair, take naps in the sun or shade, play in the sand, or snow, then tired, sleep like a dog: feel the tiredness, walk around in circles then drop into a ball and sleep.

In this tale all five senses are covered: hearing, seeing, smelling, feeling and tasting as the boy follows the lad of his dog in using all of his senses during the day. Concentrating on your senses leads to mindfulness, a state of being aware of what is going on around you and in you, a state where observation is the key.

Once the story is complete, over the page are two double pages of hints of what you can do to achieve mindfulness during the four seasons of the year. The book tells you to ‘Take a mindful nature walk with a friend’, and the pages outline what can be done in smelling, tasting, hearing, seeing and feeling like a dog. The last page gives instructions for a mindful breathing exercise, directions which can be followed several times a day to get more oxygen to the brain and make you feel calm.

This is a wonderful introduction to mindfulness, a kind, friendly look at the five senses and their importance to us, a reminder that using them all requires practise. Just like a dog! The wonderful illustrations are a treat adding another layer of humour and involvement. The images direct us to be in the moment: each is active, collaborative and give an awareness of the senses. Children will instantly recognise the dog’s behaviours, following its lead as it meanders around the playground, sniffing as it wanders. The interaction between the boy and his dog is stunningly displayed, and I love the detail on the last few pages, reiterating the role of the five senses in making us feel at peace.

Themes: Mindfulness, Five senses, Meditation, Dogs.

Fran Knight