It is with a heavy heart that I report that we had to put the family dog (Casey) to sleep yesterday. We got Casey when I was 16 years old (making her 14 years old – and just shy of 100 in dog years). From the time she was a puppy, Casey has faced a myriad of health issues and it truly is a miracle that she lived as long as she did. First thing yesterday morning, I received the news from my dad that she wasn’t doing very well. However – what struck me the most was his descriptor of her – “she’s a fighter.”
This got me thinking, not only about how much of a fighter she really was (which I will detail in a bit), but about the life lessons that we can learn from our dogs. Therefore, as a tribute to Casey, I will share the lessons and love that I have been fortunate enough to experience through some of the animals that I have been lucky enough to call “family.”
Casey – The Fighter
Casey was a puppy-mill dog who had faced health issues from the time she was a puppy. I remember long nights as a teenager, peaking in her cage checking to make sure that she was still breathing. She had numerous bouts with pneumonia which were severe enough to require overnight hospitalization. A few years ago, she jumped off a couch and completely paralyzed her hind legs. For days, she had to be taken outside to potty using a sling. Despite all odds, she managed to learn to walk just using her front legs and eventually regained full movement and mobility.
Like my dad said, she was a fighter. The runt of the litter – petite, peppy and full of fight. As a little tiny dog, she surpassed all of the vet’s expectations. Casey was mild mannered and loving – but she was resilient.
Lesson Learned: To keep fighting, no matter what others say or how the odds seem to be stacked against you
Barney – The Lover
We adopted Barney when I was in college as a companion for Casey. Barney has an intuition unlike anything else. He can sense your feelings and share in your emotions with you in a way that most humans can’t. During an especially difficult period of my life, Barney sensed my suffering and wouldn’t leave my side – day and night standing guard to protect me against anything that might come my way. Being a 20 pound dachshund his bark may have been more than his bite – but I digress.
Lesson Learned: To stop thinking about your own struggles and become more attuned to others
Oliver – The Adaptable One
I adopted Oliver 10 years ago from an animal shelter in Missouri after losing my puppy (Cubby) in a dog attack. Since the time he was a puppy, Oliver has been full of personality. He lives his life with reckless abandon. He has also had to learn to be adaptable – living in a total of 4 states and 9 houses over the last 10 years. Oliver is also determined – he likes to have things his own way and isn’t afraid to communicate that (which sometimes means barking at nothing). Oliver isn’t afraid to be himself and is willing to adapt to the situation at hand, despite the fact that he is slightly nerotic. What I love the most is that he is always running from room to room. Even when we don’t know what prompted him to get up in the first place, he does it with excitement.
Lesson Learned: Face life’s challenges with reckless abandon and excitement
Lesson Learned: Have patience with others and take care of your relationships, even if it means giving in to someone else when they are wrong
Heidi and Cubby
Lesson Learned: Life is short (sometimes unexpectedly so) and that it is important to live every day to the fullest.
What four-legged friends are members of your family? What lessons have you learned from them?