Gracie, the blue dog, and Max, the white horse, have learned a lot from their adventures together on the ranch in Texas. They’ve both experienced situations where one or both of them were outside their comfort zone. And it turns out, that that’s where they learned, where they bonded and learned to trust one another. People are the same way. Anytime we step outside our comfort zone – or find ourselves there due to a circumstance out of our control – we ultimately learn from the experience.

Animals can teach us a great deal if we slow down long enough and learn to listen. Below are five lessons that The Blue Dog and The White Horse can teach us:

1. Be happy for others and celebrate their joy. Max was visibly happy whenever he saw Gracie having fun. He was a retired roping horse who was a little bit sad but when he met Gracie, his sadness began to fade. His happiness grew in part because he could be happy for her as he watched her chase bunnies and discover new things. By feeling happy for Gracie, Max ended up being happier too. We humans need to remember that happiness is not in limited supply. If you’re having a bad day or feeling low, simply being happy for friends or colleagues who are doing well will result in you feeling better. Happiness and confidence is contagious – when you can be happy for someone else, just like Max, you’ll find your spirits will start to lift.

2. Don’t cover up your feelings – they’re valid. It’s ok to feel afraid or anxious and expressing your vulnerabilities or insecurities with a trusted friend is a sign of strength. Max let Gracie know that he was nervous about his dentist appointment and she stayed close by his side – sneaking into Max’s stall repeatedly until the vet realized she was helping him feel calm. Gracie’s presence made everything better. Most everyone wants to have a purpose and feel as though they are making a difference. Asking for help takes courage – especially in our society – yet when you trust someone enough to ask for support you’ve not only taken a step toward self-care, you’ve also empowered someone else and helped them benefit from knowing they made a difference.

3. Try new things – once you’ve expanded your mind with new experiences, it doesn’t shrink back – curiosity leads to growth. Gracie was curious about the carrots that Max enjoyed so much. But most dogs don’t like to eat carrots and her instinct initially prevented her from trying them. When Max dropped a carrot one day, Gracie decided to try it. Despite the fact that Gracie would not eat carrots at home, she loved snacking on them with Max. Eating carrots together turned into one of Max and Gracie’s favorite things but if Gracie had not tried them they would have missed out on that special time together.

4. It’s ok to be different – our diversity can teach us and help us to grow. Gracie and Max are very different. Gracie is a small, young dog who had been traumatized and was skittish and fearful. Max is a tall, older wise horse who is highly-skilled and well-trained. Gracie and Max focused on their similarities and became close friends but it was their differences that helped them to learn from one another. Gracie, the timid and often shy dog, learned to be confident from her wise, old friend, and Max, who was retired and not living with the same purpose he once had, learned to discover new things and find joy again in sharing adventures with Gracie.

5. If someone is hurtful to you, try to feel compassion for them – happy people don’t hurt others. On the ranch, the red-faced lady was mean to Gracie and Max and she often yelled at them. They had not done anything wrong and it confused Gracie. Max helped Gracie to learn how to avoid her which helped prevent her from being angry. Max also helped Gracie understand that if the red-faced lady was being hurtful that something must be hurting her on the inside. Max helped Gracie to be compassionate toward the red-faced lady. Happy people don’t hurt others and they learned to feel compassion for her and wished for her to feel as happy as they were.

You can read more from Gracie and Max in The Blue Dog and The White Horse, ‘Adventures on a Texas Ranch’, available at the local bookstores in Taos, NM, and on Amazon.