Lessons Learned From My Dog
In mid February, 2004, a wiggling bundle of joy came into my family’s life in the form of a Black Labrador Retriever named Boomer. He quickly became my steadfast buddy as I was already working from home, so he was with me all day, every day.
He taught me many lessons, and most didn’t really sink in until he was gone, and I had the chance to reflect on all of the time we shared together.
It seems like he was never far from me – under my feet as I drank my morning tea; under my feet as I worked on my computer, either at the bar, outside on the deck, or on the couch.
If I got up to change out the laundry, he followed me. If I got up to do something in the kitchen, he was right there (always hopeful a treat was headed his way!)
(This picture is of him, patiently waiting to walk the beach in Ventura, California!)
It was devastating when we buried him on September 6, 2013, after only 9 1/2 years, due to a quick, unexpected spinal injury that we just couldn’t overcome.
In trying to deal with this horrible loss, I started journaling about all of the funny times we had shared with him, as a family and by myself, and the many lessons he taught me.
It’s funny how we don’t always realize how much we truly interact with our pets, until they leave us. In the days that followed, I caught myself repeatedly about to say something to him; reached down to pet him at my feet; listening for the sound of his tags rattling on his collar; or his feet coming up the stairs; him in his water bowl; and any number of other comfortable, constant sounds and actions that made his presence known.
Lessons about life and business come in all different ways, and I wanted to share a little of what I learned from my dog, Boomer, over the last 9 years, with him as my kind, loving, loyal and sweet companion.
- Be joyful and positive. Wake up everyday with an intention to be happy and spread positive energy. Don’t be a downer; or complain. If you have a business, understand the highs and lows and find the silver lining in everything.
- Appreciate and love others. Boomer always let me know I was appreciated; a wagging tail at the door when I came home; a lick on the face, toes or hands when I fed him; always being there with a smiling face and a consoling spirit when I was sad. In your business, don’t get upset when people say no, quit or aren’t interested. Love and appreciate them where they are in their journey.
- Be unforgettable. Once he was gone, the silence was deafening and the little things I took for granted were so clearly missing. His sounds, habits and joyfulness make him truly unforgettable. In your business, under promise and over deliver.
- Be on time. God knows, he never missed a meal and was on time for them all. He was also ready at a moment’s notice to go to the lake; walk on the beach or take a ride on the car. In fact, anything we wanted him to do, he was ready and on time. In your business, show up when you say you will, prepared!
- Communicate your needs and wants. Whether he was hungry, had to go to the bathroom, or just wanted some attention, he communicated it clearly and directly. There was no beating around the bush. In your business, say what needs to be said. Ask people for a decision and let them know you would love to have them on your team and why.
- Expect the best. Boomer expected everything to be fun and exciting. There was no “Eeyore Syndrome” in him. He never hesitated because it was snowing; raining; the stars weren’t aligned or he was having a “bad hair day.” He expected the best, always. In your business, you must EXPECT success. The past does not equal the future.
- Be spontaneous and adventuresome. Like being on time, Boomer never said “no!” He never had something better to do than go with the family out boating on the lake, or walking on the beach. He didn’t have a TV show he needed to finish first, or a Blog post to be written before doing those things that are important. (Note to self – remember this!) In your business, some things may show up that you aren’t expecting. Listen to your gut and don’t be afraid to think outside of the box.
- Don’t save the “good stuff” for later. I have been taught this lesson more than once, and it obviously didn’t sink in. I needed something to bribe him to walk up a ramp and into the car, as my body was becoming worn out from trying to lift and manipulate a 90 pound dog into my car for treatments. I couldn’t always get help. I found a bag of assorted yummy doggie treats that had been under the cabinet for a while. What was I saving them for? Why did he not get to enjoy them all. Sadly, he didn’t make it to finish them off. In your business, reward your self each step of the way. Don’t set goals so high that it seems like a chore. Celebrate everything!
- Don’t worry about little things. Like with children, a spotless house usually means an empty house; and so what is the point? Who cares? It’s much more meaningful to focus on what really matters. (Note to self – don’t lose sight of this.) In your business, there will be peaks and valleys. Most of it won’t matter in a few days, weeks or months.
- Live in the moment. Dogs seem to have no past and no future. They are there, on the ready, for whatever. As humans, we tend to spend too much time dwelling on a past that can’t be changed and no longer matters; and a future that is not promised to us; only hoped for. Had I known what was coming, I would have taken him to the lake a LOT more this past summer. In your business, enjoy the journey. Don’t always be thinking toward the next promotion.
- Pay attention to those meaningless things that irritate you. Over the past few days, I noticed the sweet little nose smudges on the glass door; the tufts of dog hair floating out from under furniture and other pieces of evidence that he had been there. Today, these things bring tears to my eyes and I can’t bring myself to wipe off the window, or sweep the floor. Why did this irritate me so much before? In your business, it’s easy to let little things derail you. Go back to – Don’t sweat the small stuff!
- Be a good listener. Boomer was a great listener and he heard many of my deep, dark secrets; rants; excited tales and more. He listened patiently, and never tried to “fix” anything, or offer his opinion, unless I asked. And, he always agreed with me (wink) by laying his ears back and smiling like only dogs can. In your business, listening is the most important gift you can give another.
Most dogs and other pets will teach us these lessons, if we will just clear a space and be open to receiving them. My hope is to hold these lessons in my heart and honor his life and memory by living by them better than I have in the past.
Only another dog lover can truly understand the pain and heartbreak of losing their beloved, and even harder when we have to make the choice to cut short a life we value so much, in order to spare them more pain and agony. They count on us for everything, including doing right by them at all times.
And while we had to make that heart wrenching decision on his behalf, I asked him to give me a sign when it was time. He gave me two, and loved me to the end.
My only solace has been thinking about the movie, “Million Dollar Baby”, about the female boxer who became completely paralyzed after a fight. She begged her trainer to not leave her that way; that is was not a life, and not something she wanted to continue.
I have to believe that the two signs Boomer gave me were his way of asking us to relieve him of his duty; his pain, and a life that would never satisfy a dog as active and full of life as Boomer was.
If you’ve read this far, I thank you for sharing this journey with me, and allowing me to provide my own relief and therapy by writing about it. And, I hope that some piece of this will strike a chord with you, if you find any of these lessons something you need, as well.
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