What My Dog Taught Me

yellow Labrador

by R. Scott Sullender

About a year ago this summer, our family moved to Marin. We brought our beloved yellow Labrador, Monte, with us. Since then, he has passed on, which leads me to reflect on this journey we call life and on the beings that share our journey with us. What did I learn from my journey with Monte? I learned that:

  • There is no moment like the present.
  • Joy is contagious and sorrow is lessened when shared.
  • Everyone needs “unconditional love” – it is the foundation of love.
  • Life is to be lived with no regrets.
  • Complaining does not do much good and is beneath a dog’s dignity.
  • Nothing is as important as “hanging out with your pack.”
  • Is nothing as satisfying as a good meal and a good poop?
  • The anticipation of getting what you want is as much fun as getting it, or to paraphrase, “Pleasure is 80 percent anticipation.”
  • Loyalty matters.
  • Academic degrees, grand achievements and even religious dogma really do not matter to those who love you for who you are.
  • Exercise should be joyful.
  • It is important to know your role in the family.
  • “Play” enlivens the spirit and keeps us young.
  • We can commune with the Creator through our bodily senses – enjoying the smells in the air, meditating in a warm bathtub, running with the wind blowing through our hair, the freshness of plunging into water on a hot summer day – in such moments, we are one with the Creation.
  • Sometimes “a guy has to do what a guy has to do.”
  • Walking is good, but running is even better.
  • When you are “loved a long time, really loved,” you become real and probably even smarter.
  • Life is full of suffering, especially toward the end of life, – how we handle it is a great test of character.
  • Sometimes protecting your turf is necessary and empowering.
  • We should not put off until tomorrow what we want to do or say today.
  • Doing something for yourself, however little, is important in the midst of great physical suffering.
  • It does not matter so much where you live, as who you live with.
  • One is never too old, too sick or too depressed to play ball, even if you have to push it just a few inches with your nose.
  • Guarding loved ones is an act of love.

Someone mentioned recently that dogs are like angels. They come to Earth to do a job and when their job is completed, they move on.

Each of us in our family can cite ways that our Monte got us through something tough, and now having completed his jobs, has moved on to those heavenly fields where angels like him run, play ball and bask in the morning sun. May each of you find similar angels in your life.

Scott Sullender is an ordained clergyperson and a licensed psychologist. He is the director of the Lloyd Center for Pastoral Counseling in San Anselmo.

© Scott Sullender
Reprinted with permission.