A person can learn a lot from a dog, even a loopy one like ours. Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things-a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. And as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty.
― John Grogan, Marley and Me: Life and Love With the World’s Worst Dog
I was extremely fortunate to grow up in a family that welcomed animals. I don’t remember a time during my childhood where there were fewer than two four-legged companions in the house. In addition to dogs and cats there was a series of gerbils, hamsters, assorted fish, Spring Peepers (really tiny frogs) and an ill-advised adventure with a rabbit named Cinnamon.
Twenty something years ago, I made the cross-country trek from Massachusetts to Colorado. I was accompanied by my two cats, Grace (Kelly) & Greta (Garbo), who let me know, in no uncertain terms, that they were less than pleased with the confines of my tiny gray Toyota Tercel for the journey west. Grace and Greta were the first animal companions I shared my world with as an independent adult. They have since moved on to the big catnip patch in the sky but they saw me through two marriages, two divorces and the birth of my amazing daughter.
Currently, I am the fortunate guardian of two 75 pound yellow labs, Zora & Simon. Zora joined my family as a puppy and for the past ten years she has been my constant gentle companion. Zora is one of those couch potato labs that will certainly accompany you anywhere but is perfectly content to lounge whenever you get where you are going. When Zora first came home, I looked at my then 7-year-old daughter and explained, “dogs don’t go on the furniture or sleep on our beds.” Zora has spent the past 10 years sleeping next to my head. (This could have something to do with my having been largely single for the past decade but that’s a topic for another post.)
Five and half years ago, I rescued Simon through Safe Harbor Lab Rescue because my “friends” didn’t talk me out of it. Simon came in to my life like a freight train. Where Zora is sweet and chill, Simon is as high octane a lab as there is – all happy energy and in your face! When Simon came to live with us, I was told that he was around 18-24 months and that he knew all of his basic commands, was great in the car and just needed a little leash work. Let’s just say that Simon’s foster family highly underestimated his age (closer to 10 months) and highly overestimated his skill set. “Sit” was seen as optional, he was a whirling dervish in the car and, truth be told, he sucked on leash. Simon is my Marley.
Since Simon’s arrival, I have invested hundreds of hours and no small portion of my savings into his training, which at times seems more like puppy rehab. This fun-loving, energetic and silly dog is teaching me more about myself than years of therapy ever could.
I believe that humans are drawn to the dog breeds that best represent the qualities we would like to see in ourselves. Simon is fully present in every moment. He relishes every bite of his food with delight and with no trace of guilt. He is happy all the time and everyone is a potential friend. Ever the eternal optimist, Simon greets each morning by thumping his tail joyfully on the bed. (Yes…he sleeps on the bed too – again discussing the impact of this on my social life is best saved for another time) It’s his way of letting me know that the adventure, which is sure to be delightful, is about to begin all over again. All regrets, transgressions, and bad emotions from the previous day are forgiven and forgotten.
I aspire to be more like Simon each day.
Please join the conversation. Tell us about the animals with whom you share your life.