Those of us who are “dog people” are part of a not-so-secret-society. We will stop on the street to pet a dog, and will often speak to the dog in our “aren’t you a sweet doggie voice” without so much as acknowledging the human on the other side of the leash. Our own dogs – the ones who own us – claim a huge piece of our hearts and are just like our children, in a sense. Those of us who have experienced the heartbreak of losing a beloved pup know that the pain of that loss is excruciating and that the ensuing loneliness is tough to get through.
What IS it about dogs that captures our hearts and souls?? I think it’s a lot about the simplicity of their beings and the things they teach us without even knowing.
The first thing, of course, is their unconditional love. We come in the door after a hard day grumpy, discouraged, and tired – but our pups greet us with unbridled affection and limitless energy. They don’t care if we’re out of sorts. They are just SO happy to have their humans back home. I think of the many times my sweet husband comes in the door and I’m preoccupied at best, oblivious at worst. What if there was a time when that door didn’t open and his greeting to me not heard? Dogs don’t take our arrivals or our presence for granted – EVER.
Our pups teach us to take time for the simple things and to live in the moment. Have you ever seen a dog not enjoy a nap, especially during the chasing-a-squirrel-dream? How about watching a dog chase a ball, shake a stuffed toy, or dig into that chewbone? Such pleasure! Just a quick belly rub makes my dog’s eyes roll back and sends her into the ecstasy zone. And talk about a car ride – that’s the bomb! It seems to take so much to make us humans happy. What if we focused more on just enjoying the simple gifts each day offers us? Dogs don’t care about yesterday or tomorrow – they only care about the here and now.
But the most impactful lesson my dogs have taught me is courage and acceptance in the face of adversity. I’ve had to let four dogs go due to illness – and in each situation, my pups have been far more courageous than I. They all accepted their mortality with grace, dignity, and enjoying life right up until the very end – with a biscuit or treat and lots of rubs and hugs. They faced the end of their lives cherishing moments to show love and be loved just like they lived their lives. We humans cling to life at all costs and are often fearful of death because it is such a big unknown. But we’ll all eventually face our own mortality; and if we can take a lesson from our dogs, maybe we can actually remember to live each day to the fullest and savor each of life’s moments right up until the end.
Vicki Ravenel is the Co-Founder of A Wish For You (www.awishforyou.net), an online portal where customers can create Wish Packages to send to others for whom they want to show support, encouragement, and uplifting wishes. She lives in Charleston, South Carolina with her husband.