Gizmo is my fur baby.
Growing up, my sisters were animal people. They had hedgehogs, hamsters, cats, and dogs. I enjoyed them but once I left the house, I knew I didn’t’ want the responsibility of taking care of a pet on my own. My son asked me for dogs his whole life and my answer was always “not right now.”
One day, my fiancé was looking at puppies online because we had occasionally talked about getting one and he came across the cutest Shih Tzu puppy that was for sale by it’s owner. I went to see him the next day and I was hooked. Maybe it was maternal instinct because I was about 3 months pregnant at the time but I had to have him.
We brought him home when he was 4 weeks old and he needed a little extra TLC. His mother had started refusing to feed him and since I stay home during the day, I could give him his formula supplement and keep a close eye on him. In having him around, I have come to understand why people think of their dogs as additional children. Like children, they need love and attention.
Gizmo has quite the personality and he is a needy guy. It’s cute most of the time but overbearing at others. My health issues made pregnancy difficult and I spent much of the time resting with bursts of energy here and there where I could get some work done either on my business or around the house. Any time I would get up to get some work done, like clockwork, Gizmo would start biting at my toes or barking at me to get attention.
One day, as I was busy working on a tech project and hollering at him to be quiet, I looked down and noticed him sitting by my feet with a tennis ball he brought over and set on the floor and something clicked. I remembered a section of a book I read in 2016 and everything changed.
There is a chapter in “The Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes where she talks about saying “yes” to her kids. To paraphrase, Rhimes tells us that children have an attention span of about 15 minutes and if we don’t take that time with them, eventually they stop asking us to spend time with them. She committed that when her younger kids asked her to play, she would drop whatever she was doing to give them 15 minutes of undivided attention. The same would go for her oldest. Older kids may not ask to play, but they do give us an indication of when they need some attention.
As I thought about this, I thought of other relationships as well and realized that this same rule can apply to pretty much anyone. Our partners, our coworkers, our families, and our friends all let us know when they want some of our time and more often than not, those needs can be met by giving them about 15 minutes of your time.
This rule even applies with Gizmo.
I picked up the tennis ball and played a few rounds of fetch with him and after a few rounds, he took the ball to his little bed area and played by himself, completely content to know that when he needs me, I am there.
It’s been a number of months since I started practicing this rule on the regular with my kids, my fiance, and Gizmo and I’ve actually found that it makes me feel better about my relationships too. It’s made me realize that no matter what I’m doing, it doesn’t hurt to take a break and connect with someone. The work will still be there when that 15 minutes is up.