As I wind down on a Sunday night writing this blog, I have tears streaming down my face. Facing the reality of an aging pet is difficult. My sweet dog is laying on the floor beside me chasing squirrels in her sleep. Her legs moving across the floor as she is running through the field. Maybe she actually catches the squirrels in her dreams. :)
My sweet Cammy is 13 years (and almost 4 months) old. I got her at 6 weeks old. She has been with me my entire adult life and I cannot imagine life without her. But as time moves forward, I know that she won't be with me forever. Her age has really started to show in the past few months. Some days she struggles to walk, doesn't have much energy, and is losing her hearing and sight. I fondly remember back to earlier years when she was full of energy and I would wish she would calm down at times. Oh what I would give to have those days again....
It got me thinking about the lessons we can learn from our pets. Cammy has taught me so much about unconditional love, pure joy, and loyalty. They say that dogs are a man's (and woman's) best friend, and I can understand why. You don't have to worry about them lying to you, deceiving you, or abandoning you. They are loyal to a fault and would rather die than leave their owner's side. When I think about the things she has taught me about life that resonate the most, the following things come to mind.....
Show your friends and family that you are excited to see them - every. single. time. It doesn't matter how many hours may have passed that day, Cammy always runs to the door, tail wagging, and a smile on her face. "You're home!!!!" she seems to say. And no matter how bad of a day I might have had, coming home to a sweet pup that is so excited to see you makes everything okay.
We should greet our loved ones like that each time we see them. Big hugs, smiles, and visible JOY in seeing them. Look up from your screen - yes, I am talking to you - and greet your spouse, children, roommate when they walk in the door from a long day. Wish them well and say "I love you" when they leave for the day.
And how about strangers? Or those people that we may not really even like? Wish them a good morning, a good day, a good evening. Ask how they are. Pay them a compliment. We should engage with those around us as much as our dogs engage with us each time they see us - and even those random strangers in the elevator. Our dogs like to say hello, and we should too. You never know how a seemingly small gesture can make someone's day.
Make time to play each day (no matter how old and "busy" you are) - I would take Cammy out to potty, and no sooner had she finished her business, and she had already found a stick or forgotten tennis ball that she would bring to me to throw for her to fetch. It didn't matter that I was already late for work, or I was wearing black work pants that didn't need a slobbery tennis ball on them. She just wanted to play!
When is the last time you did something that wasn't on you agenda for the day? When is the last time you didn't have an agenda for the day? Yes, I know - you're busy. We work our days away and occupy our time with things we have to do. Now don't get me wrong, I have been on my own supporting myself financially since 18 so I understand the need to work and make money. But even when I was working 3 jobs, I still found time to enjoy life. I guarantee you can find 30 minutes in your day to do something you enjoy. Even better if it involves your pet, family, or friends. Bonus points for spontaneity!
Protect your loved ones - Labrador Retrievers are some of the sweetest and most loving dogs on the planet. I use to joke that the only thing Cammy would probably do is lick someone to death. Yet when I was upset or Cammy thought I was in trouble, I have seen her growl, show her teeth, and invoke fear in grown men. In times like these, I learned that she would protect her mom no matter what. I have also read stories of dogs that have stayed beside children who may have wandered off and gotten lost, and refusing to leave their owner's side when they were in danger.
Are we taking care of each other like that? Do we stand up for others when we see someone being bullied? Do we stand up when we see an injustice being done. While it isn't the same analogy if it is a stranger, I still think we have something to learn here. We should look out for each other, regardless of our backgrounds, ethnicity, gender, or race. If you see someone in trouble, help them. If you see someone being treated unfairly, intervene if you can. We could all use a little extra protection and support these days.
Be present today - For our pets, they are always fully present in the day. For them, all they have it the here and now. They don't multi-task or put off things to tomorrow. Yes, I know this sounds silly to think about this way, but there is still a lesson to be learned.
Are you living for tomorrow or are you celebrating today? Are you fully present in everything you do, or are you trying to multi-task to "be more efficient?" If you knew today was your last day on earth, would you do things differently? What if you had 3 months to live? How would you approach each day? I see so many people who say "I will be happy when...." or "I will feel like I am successful when...." They are always looking to achieve that next goal, but not fully appreciating where they are today. Now don't get me wrong - I am big on goal setting and planning and trying to get better each and every day. But don't forget to appreciate where you are today, in this moment.
And most importantly, love hard and without expectations - Cammy loves me no matter what. I have dropped her off for boarding (which she hated) so I could travel. I have left her at home for 10 hours when I left for work and then had a networking event or had to work a little late. I have yelled at her. I haven't let her play because I had things to do. I have given her reasons to be upset with me or not like me or even run away for a few days. But like all good dogs, she always loves me and is always excited to see me - no matter what.
People are going to disappoint us, frustrate us, and break our hearts. As hard as it can be at times, we must love them anyways. Turn the other cheek. Forgive. Trust me - I know this is much easier said than done, but it should be something we are all striving for.
And beyond the people we know, let's love EVERYONE. People who are sometimes hard to love. They have different political views, religious beliefs, opinions on COVID, vaccines, parenting, social topics - whatever! It has often been said that the people that make it the hardest to love them are the ones who need love the most. I know that Cammy doesn't care if someone votes Republican or Democrat - she gives everyone a smile and a tail wag.
And so for as much as I have done to make Cammy happy and give her an amazing life, it doesn't compare to the things she has taught me. I only wish I could be half the person that my dog thinks I am.