Alaska, Angel, Annie, Blackie, Bonnie, Brandon, Buddha, Bussy, Charlie Brown, Cymbie, Doc, Duke, Edward, Hank, Harley, Judy, Kimba, Lady, Lassie, Leia, Maggie, Max, Megan, Morgan, Patty, Pearl, Rex, Rita, Teddi, Tiffany, Toby, Tommy, Trixie, Tyler, Zarah, and Zeb. These are the dogs that have blessed my life. Some played that role for many years and some for only a few moments. They have touched my life in more ways than I can count.
They were a variety of breeds, both purebreds and mixed breeds, including: Airedale, Alaskan Malamute, Border Collie, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Chihuahua, Collie, Doberman Pinscher, English Setter, German Shepard, Jack Russell Terrier, Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, Great Dane, Miniature Poodle, Old English Sheepdog, Pit Bull, Pug, Rottweiler, Shetland Sheep Dog, Siberian Husky, Welsh Corgi, and West Highland Terrier.
Each one of them supported me along my journey through life. Each did that in a different way. Some of them were a part of my life for a few short weeks or months while others arrived as puppies and spent their entire lives with me. They were the ones I grew up with, shared with family or friends, or otherwise shared a part of my life. They came in and went out of my life for a variety of reasons. They died from old age, illness or cancer, or were hit by cars. Some barely started their lives and others lived out their life expectancy and beyond. Many of my friends have equally amazing dogs as those dogs that have lived with me.
I don’t have photographs of all of them but the image of each of them is permanently etched in my mind. They all have a story. I can recall time spent with each of them. There is the dog, when I was about seven years old that bit through my thumb. After that, my fear of being bitten did not prevent me from being bitten again. It also did not stop me from having dogs in my life. The many dogs that came into my life after that incident helped me to face that fear. Some were visually very intimidating but were actually mushy balls of love. Others were as fierce as they looked.
Every Dog Has a Distinct, Unique Personality
Dogs have as varied and unique personalities as people do. They aren’t people. They are dogs and act as dogs do. They are wonderfully supportive and eagerly try to be everything we want them to be. Sometimes they reflect our deepest fears by being afraid themselves giving us the opportunity to protect them or they are the protective ones standing between us and our fear. Sometimes they take on an illness similar to what we are experiencing. There are many stories of dogs having the same cancers as their owners. Some dogs are all business and some are all play. They give us ample opportunities to learn more about ourselves.
There are the out-going happy go lucky dogs that everyone instantly falls in love with. They love everyone and everyone loves them. There are dogs that live their life in a perpetual bad mood, because that is who they are. There are shy dogs and fearful dogs that have been born that way and those that have been abused. Assumptions and supposed stories about why an individual is the way it is does not easily allow them to move on from that story. Their stories are entwined with our own. When they move on from their story, we can move on from it too. Behaviors are hard to move on from when the story is told over and over again.
Dogs Are the Ultimate Ambassadors of Goodwill
Sometimes we save them only to realize that they have saved us. Think of the miracle it is for each of us having arrived together in this moment through a series of events that, had they not occurred, we would have never met. They help us to face our fears and frustrations. They bring love and joy into our lives with no strings attached. They bring us to laughter and they bring us to tears.
There is no judgment in the essence of a dog. They don’t care how much money we do or don’t have. They value us for just being. This is a lesson that we, as humans, seem to have such a struggle in seeing in ourselves and others. Dogs just get it. They know it. They meet us in the moment. They respond to how they are treated, whether in fear or love in relation to their own unique personalities. That is not to say that they don’t judge a situation and decide how they will respond to it. Have you ever tried to catch a dog that does not want to be caught?
The Connection We Have With Our Dogs
Dogs provide us with so much more than companionship and moral support. They provide us with a mirror for how we see the world. This ranges from the type of dog we are naturally drawn toward to the behaviors they exhibit while with us. When we don’t feel safe, they feel that in us. Their reaction may be to bark and snap at us or to bark and snap at other dogs and people. The dog that drags us down the sidewalk might be prompting us to take a look at how much confidence we have in ourselves. The overly shy dog gives us the opportunity to recognize those same traits in ourselves, enabling both to be more confident and outgoing.
The bond we have with those special dogs that can never be replaced is a special gift that they have given us. They may have been our best friend, our confidant. We vow to never forget what they brought to our life. From a dog’s perspective, that bond was never meant to be lost. Often we lose sight of the gifts they gave to our life when their physical time with us has ended. They know that their time with us is limited. It seems far too short a time for the depth of connection that we feel with them. Our sadness at their passing is meant to also pass since they left us with an amazing gift to be cherished, nurtured and expanded in our lives.
A dog’s purpose can be easily defined as a mission to help us reconnect to unconditional love and joy. It is not to connect with only them, only for the time they are here, but to everyone around us. They are the perfect example of how life can be lived. Of the many realizations gained from having such a wide variety of dogs in my life, I have seen my own capacity for compassion and empathy expanded. They have continuously opened my heart and kept it open. What greater gift to them is there than to continue to expand in my life now the love and joy they nurtured while with me?
Life always seems to be missing something when there is not a dog in the picture. The picture of life with a dog is somehow more complete. It is not the particular dog, though many of them have been incredibly special. It is the love and joy they bring to life.