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8 powerful lessons about love, life, and self-care from a talking dog on TV.

'Downward Dog' is a delightful, must-watch show with a powerful message.

8 powerful lessons about love, life, and self-care from a talking dog on TV.

There are lots of life lessons we can learn from our four-legged friends — but ABC's "Downward Dog" takes it to the next level.

"Downward Dog" is a heart-meltingly cute show that premiered earlier this year about a woman named Nan and her dog, Martin. Each episode centers on Martin as he learns a bit about himself and the world around him. Oh, and he can talk — at least in the "breaking the fourth wall" way (meaning he doesn't talk to Nan, but he does talk to the audience in a hilarious, droll voiceover), narrating his journey.

Allison Tolman (who plays Nan) and Ned (who plays Martin). Photo courtesy of ABC.


Cuteness aside, there are some phenomenally simple, beautiful, and relatable life lessons peppered throughout the first season.

Even if you haven't watched the show (which you totally should), the observant Martin gives some incredible advice on how to confidently navigate this world — especially on the tough days.

Here are eight of those totally awesome moments of self-love and acceptance.

1. It's OK to communicate your needs in a relationship. In fact, it's really, really important.

The pilot episode focuses on Martin and Nan's relationship. As Nan struggles with some trouble in her love life and a boss who just doesn't get it, Martin feels a bit neglected but realizes that maybe he's not just communicating his needs especially well.

“I don’t think Nan has any idea how packed my days are. I actually have a lot to accomplish. For one thing, the fact that I need 14 hours of sleep is not something I should have to feel bad about. Sleep is the foundation of a productive day."
— Martin

All GIFs from "Downward Dog"/ABC.

2. Get out of your comfort zone.

Rules are important, but it's OK to challenge yourself by trying new things.

When Martin gets a new collar-activated doggy door, he makes that all-too-common mistake of letting his newfound power — being able to go outside on his own — get to his head. From there, he pushed the rules.

"I thought there was a path laid out for me. I was supposed to walk when Nan and Jason said, like some passive supplicant thankful for any walk at all, but I see it now. There isn't a path. There aren't any boundaries. I can go wherever I want. I'm the one in charge."

3. Don't write people off as being either purely "good" or "bad" — especially yourself. Life's more complicated than that.

Martin struggles with his own feelings of loyalty to Nan during the show's third episode and begins to wonder whether wanting to play with others makes him a bad dog. But maybe there's no such thing as a "good dog" or "bad dog" at all.

"Sometimes, I think people get caught up in believing you're either good or bad and that it's black or white, loyal or disloyal — but I think that's kind of maybe reductionistic."

4. You don't need to be perfect, even in the eyes of someone you love.

After struggling during a training session with another dog, Martin finds himself feelings really low, his confidence shot. He's worried he's not good enough for Nan, but it turns out that you don't need to be "the full package." When someone loves you, they love you. Near the end of the episode, Nan comes to Martin's defense.

(And OK, this is a quote from Nan, not Martin. But it reflects how they feel about each other!)

"Martin is my dog, OK, and I really don't care if he's, like, the best-trained dog, and I don't even care if he craps on the floor now and then. I just want him to be happy."

5. Don't be afraid to love the things that make you weird.

While Nan is, in Martin's words, "uptight and pious" for not liking trash, Martin knows what he likes and is unapologetic about it.

"I'm just edgier and less ruled by societal norms. For instance, part of me has always just really, really liked trash. Just, getting into it. And I actually like that about myself."

6. Hiding who you are isn't good for you or the world.

Martin is tired of holding back his love for trash.

"I'm tired of hiding who I am. By living in the shadows, I've actually been buying into her puritanical narrative that trash is bad and unhealthy and shameful. I'm not hiding anymore. There's a big, beautiful, trashy world out here, and I'm gonna taste every fetid, moldy scrap of it."

7. It's OK to be scared of growing up.

Martin doesn't like puppies. His reason, however, doesn't have anything to do with puppies, and a lot more to do with himself and his own fears.

"Maybe I'm not so chill about getting older, OK? That puppy has his youth, he has his beauty, he has a whole lifetime of toys in front of him — and this could be one of the last toys I ever get."

8. Don't take yourself too seriously.

The season finale is about Martin coming to grips with the fact that maybe he's not always going to be the most impressive dog in the world, and maybe he's not as cool as he thinks he is. Maybe he's just a silly dog, and maybe that's OK.

Hodges, Tolman, and Ned. Photo courtesy of ABC.

It's that lesson that resonated the most with Samm Hodges, the show's co-creator and voice of Martin.

"I think for me, it was a trick of the ego," he says, explaining there were times when people would zone out upon hearing that this exciting new project he was working on was about a talking dog. "They just kind of judge you for it. I think ... that [lesson] speaks a lot to me."

Some of life's most important lessons are also the most simple, and that's what "Downward Dog" is all about.

It's easy to overthink things and overcomplicate things. But that thing you've been stressing out about is going to turn out OK. You don't have the answers to everything. You don't need to be perfect.

Be you. Try your best. Be kind. Share a little hope with others.

Every day is a new chance to grow as a person, to learn something new, and to make your own impact on the world. This heartwarming little show and its lead pup are there to help remind us what really matters.

It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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