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Life Lessons My Dog Taught Me

I’ve never thought of myself as an animal lover until I got my first German Shepherd in 2009. His name was Shep. He was so sweet, extremely smart, loving, loyal, protective, playful and so very funny. He really was a beautiful boy and I received compliments on how handsome he was almost daily.


Over the years, he taught me to have fun, enjoy life, block the noise, cultivate gratitude, live life to the fullest while you can, it’s okay to rely on others, and stay curious in life. Even on his last day, he taught me to do what you can while you can. Unfortunately, I lost my sweet boy in May of this year. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him. We were connected in so many ways and he let me know when his time came that he was ready to go. I will always be grateful to him for the life lessons he taught me.


Gratitude


Shep taught me to be grateful for the big and small wins in life. He taught me to be grateful as soon as my feet hit the floor for waking up to another beautiful day. I learned to be grateful for the less than great days, too, because those days are always full of lessons that can be useful in personal growth. When there’s a less than stellar day, I ask the question, “What can I take away from this experience?” Every night before I go to sleep, I review my day and find the nuggets of things that I can be grateful for. For example, I had a great day at work, I got to have lunch with a special friend, I made it to work safe, made it home from work safe, I have four beautiful grandkids, and what mistake did I make at work that I learned from and will never make again, etc. As Amy Collette says, “Gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness. It’s the spark that lights a fire of joy in your soul.”


Forgiveness


When I first brought Shep home, there were definitely issues that needed to be resolved such as him tearing apart our leather couch; chewing up a couple of my tops, one of which I didn’t get the opportunity to wear; his “sheppiness” when chasing after cats or rabbits while walking him on leash and just about dislocating my shoulder on multiple occasions; and, me getting stung by a bee (more on that later). With all that being said, this is what young dogs can and most likely will do. What I learned to do in these instances was to forgive him. It serves no purpose to hold onto anger, sadness, or frustration. When someone wrongs you, find forgiveness. When holding onto anger, it can hurt you mentally, emotionally, and sometimes physically while most likely never effecting the individual whose actions brought about those feelings in the first place.


Enjoy the Treats Life Gives You


Shep loved his treats and would get so excited for them. It didn’t matter if it was ham, hot dogs, or every day dog treats from Costco. He would bark enthusiastically and would get up to retrieve them no matter the struggle to do so. Everyday life isn’t always a bed of roses so when you have those moments that make your heart sing and fill your heart with joy, embrace and be grateful for them. Sometimes those treats of life don’t always stand out so review your day and look for those small treats that bring a smile to your face, give you a sense of gratitude or make you smile. It’s important to look for those little nuggets because some days can feel so mundane and “routine”. When you’re able to see those small treats in life, it can give you a renewed sense of and an excitement for just how beautiful life really is.


Live Life to the Fullest Until You Can’t


As Shep got older his hips worsened and the muscles in his back legs became weaker, making it harder for him to get up and walk but that didn’t stop him from being independent. He would use the doggie door to go the bathroom in the backyard, eat his meals standing up unless he just didn’t have the strength, which was rare, and would get up to go outside to get his treats. He even got up the morning I made arrangements to put him to sleep and went potty outside. He taught me to do what I can until I can’t. That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t ask for help, by all means if you need help, definitely ask; but, it’s important to move and be active. As we get older and the more we sit, the harder it is to move; joints become stiff, the back starts to hurt, and we can become tired more easily. Make it a goal to use and exercise your body and brain as much as possible every day.


Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway


Shep would get so nervous when he would go to the vet or the vet would come to the house for his acupuncture, cold laser treatments, or his checkups. He would tremble and shake but never did he prevent treatments or bite the vet, he just dealt with it. He would allow them to do what they needed to do; he trusted the process. In life, it’s the same. It’s okay to be nervous or scared but this is where personal growth happens. As the saying goes, I’d rather try and fail than to never try and succeed. I will be the first one to say that stepping out of the comfort zone is intimidating and scary but even if there are failures or mistakes along the way, there is huge potential in lessons learned. As Nike says, “Just do it”.


Block the Noise


Shep loved to fence fight with the neighbor’s dog. One day I took him for a walk in the hills behind our house. He loved to run, jump over bushes, and fence fight with dogs that had backyards backing up to the open space. When he got into “fence fight mode”, he wouldn’t hear or see anything except for what he was focused on. I could call him and even attempt to pull him off whatever it was that he was engaging with but I would not be able to break his focus. One day, we were up in the hills walking and he engaged a dog on the other side of the fence. I went over to pull him off the fence not realizing we were standing in the middle of an underground beehive. The bees were swarming around him but he didn’t notice; he was completely engaged in the other dog. When doing something you love or are passionate about, block the negative noise. Let the dishes sit, don’t worry about the floors or getting bathrooms clean. All of that can and will wait; however, you may lose the ambition or that moment of clarity may wane. Your gifts, talents and voice are so necessary. Your creativity is a gift from God; it’s important you develop it!




Loyalty


Shep was my loyal and constant companion. We trusted each other. I had his back and he definitely had mine. He would bark ferociously if he heard a noise, when the doorbell rang, or a critter was trespassing on his turf. While not everyone who comes into your life deserves your loyalty, there are those certain few who do. When friends and family, spouses, and significant others have your back, put forth the effort to have theirs, too. As the saying goes, “The only people I owe my loyalty to are those who never made me question theirs.” The bond that comes from trust and loyalty is unmatched. There’s an opportunity for gratitude for those special people in your life who take care of you, who are there for you when you need to talk or need a shoulder to cry on. The reward for having a faithful and loyal person in your life is a remarkable and profound blessing.


My beautiful boy, Shep, was a lovable and loving teacher. I’m so very grateful for the 12 years that I was able to love and learn from him and be his “person”. I now have a new beautiful boy in my life and I couldn’t be more grateful. He’s a two-year old blue-haired German Shepherd. And, while there are some traits that are similar to Shep’s, Blu has his own unique personality and lovable qualities. I can’t wait to see what I learn from him. Animals are beautiful life teachers and I’m grateful when I can connect with them. I highly recommend rescuing a pet and see what you can learn from it. It’s one of the most beautiful blessings in life when you get to witness an animal in gratitude.


If this resonates with you and you’re ready to ignite that fire inside, find your voice, and live your life in and on purpose, I’d love to work with you. You can reach out to me at info@aginggratefully.net.

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