Lessons I Learned from My Dog

 

Yesterday was IMG_2698our beautiful, dignified old pup’s last day on earth. A few hours before she passed, we lay together in the sunshine, awash in blue sky. Her warm body against mine, I began to think about all she had taught me. Old dogs are wise, and Jules was no exception. She understood the world in a clearer and more distilled way than the rest of us, and I appreciated that about her.  I decided to write down a list of what I learned from Julesy in her fifteen years of life, as a way of marking the memories we shared.

  • Defend those you love

Jules in her early years scared off dozens of mailmen with her bark. If another dog snarled at us on our walk, Jules would snarl back louder. She wouldn’t bite, but she did know the value of letting her teeth show once in a while. I never felt unsafe home alone, even late at night, because I knew Jules wouldn’t let anyone in that she didn’t approve of. While at times her strong protective instinct gave us pause, I think ultimately it was one of the things I loved most about her.

  • But don’t be afraid to let your guard down.

Julesy loved more than anything else to have her stomach rubbed. So once she was sure new visitors were safe and approved, she rolled over and waited. It endeared her to all of our friends, who laughed at her silly smile and white tummy.  Julesy was a people dog, and even just simply patting her head made her tail thump vigorously and loudly.  In this, she and I are the same. Following her example, I offer my heart freely to those around me, and though I don’t often get tummy rubs out of the deal, I do have a lot of love in my life.

  • Spend as much time as possible outside

Jules loved to hike well into her old age, and even when hills and long trails were too much for her, she still delighted in fresh air and sunshine.  She was mopey if she was inside too long, a trait we share. As 2016 approaches, I have decided that one of my New Year’s resolutions is to spend even more of my life in open spaces, thinking always of my beloved dog.

  • Enjoy your food

This one is self-explanatory. Jules never had a meal she didn’t relish, and I think that’s admirable.

  • Take breaks.

Jules in her later years spent a fair amount of time dozing, something I am jealous of as a busy college student. But while I may not be able to spend half my day asleep on a soft bed, I can take time for myself to rest and recharge. I think we often forget how important that is, and I know Jules would want me to kick up my heels in her name.

  • Most importantly, enjoy every moment with the people you care about.

Jules didn’t like being alone very much. She wanted to be in the middle of the action, where there were people laughing and talking and maybe even a little steak dropped her way. She had a habit of laying across the entryway to our kitchen. People tripped over her, but they also usually stopped to say hello. And that was our girl’s favorite thing, to share a moment with people she had given her heart and soul to. Jules spent every day in the company of people she saw as her pack, and that, ultimately, is the best thing she ever taught me. I spend my time with people who love me, and I love them back. That’s what makes my days full of belly laughs and long conversations. It’s what makes me smile as I fall asleep and what makes me willing to get out of bed in the morning.

I already miss my sweet dog deeply, and I am heartbroken that I will no longer see her rush the door when I come home from college. Julesy was a remarkable creature, and there is always a raw emptiness when those creatures pass on. But she won’t be forgotten. Today and every day, I am going to try to live my life a bit more like my dog.

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