Sharing the lessons along the way…

My Dogs, My Therapists

This was a Yahoo360 blog post from January 29, 2007 and I wanted to share it in honor of Duke and Amore’s 10th Birthday (with some edits and additions).

Sometimes I wonder where I would be without my dogs.  I know that may sound crazy to some, but hear me out.

When my dogs entered my life, they began teaching me about my life. I, however, was too busy to notice many of their lessons. When I held them both from the top cage of the pound, I promised them they would never have to worry about returning to a cage, and that I would take care of them for as long as they lived.

This first lesson was about commitment and being responsible for the well-being of another living being.

My second lesson was letting go.  Before my dogs were even a year old, it was clear the relationship I was in was no longer healthy for either of us.  I continued to hang on in spite of this, but then I realized that sometimes we cannot make something work that is not working.

Things have to be accepted for what they are, so that we can move forward in this life.

Naturally, the third lesson was learning to move forward and starting over.  We moved together to FL and started a new life together, closer to family.  It took them a while to really help me to understand that moving forward meant leaving baggage from the past behind.

The fourth lesson was that it is ok to play and enjoy life whenever you can!  Sadly, this fourth lesson took me a while to get.  Every now and again, I got it in their early years, but they had to work hard to get me to really understand this one.

My fifth lesson was about what motivation really means, which is that, no matter what the situation, one must always be motivated for betterment and growth.  My motivation while in a homeless program and nursing home after getting sick, while my dogs had to stay with a friend, was to get back with my dogs and back on my own.  This lesson ties into the third lesson of always moving forward.

The boys’ sixth lesson was perseverance.  There were times that every plan I made in attempts to reunite with my boys after my illness fell through.  It often seemed hopeless.  Each visit to see them renewed my hope, so I continued trying to devise plans to be back with them.  It is actually why I went to the nursing and rehabilitation facility, so they could teach me how to better function on my own.

The ultimate goal was to be back with my dogs, somewhere, anywhere.  And together we were again!

My seventh lesson was taught early on, but again I missed it until later…adaptation and adjustment.  I was a creature of habit and quite inflexible with change.  When I got sick, I actually followed my dogs’ lead on adjusting to falling, being in a wheelchair suddenly and to having very little energy.

They did not mind assistive equipment, in fact, they adapted and adjusted to this far faster than I did.  They saw me as the same human.

Not that putting it in the eighth position makes it any less meaningful or important, but my eighth lesson involved unconditional love and understanding.  This is of course a fundamental lesson. Not only did my dogs have this for me from the beginning, but also I learned that there are humans who also can provide this much needed love and support.

I allowed those humans into my world initially and only because I needed help with my dogs.  My dogs helped to bring the humans to me, and continue to pick some cool humans to have around.

The ninth lesson was that it is ok to open up to those loving and supportive humans, despite feeling vulnerable, and that the benefit outweighs the risk of getting hurt.  I had nothing to lose really by the time I fully understood this lesson because I had already lost everything I had (including my dogs for a 9-month period).

This was another one that took some work and patience on their part, but I do think I almost always get it now.

My tenth and final lesson for this blog, and one I had sought since my early 20’s is to live in the moment.  I truly understand the concept of letting go of the past, yet keeping the lessons and the positives present. I understand that I cannot change or alter past events and that what little control over planning, predicting, or whatever I thought I was doing for the future, is futile.

Being present is the only place I could really follow the lessons from my dogs because that is where they were.

You see, my dogs helped me through these lessons, not unlike a good therapist (I have had those too, but it was time for my dogs to teach through this phase of life).  I was much easier to teach once I became ill because I was forced to be still.

Prior to that it was busy busy busy and if I was not busy, my brain certainly was somewhere else.  There are many more lessons they have taught me in the past 10 years, and much more I could expand upon these ten I chose to mention.

I believe we are where we need to be at whatever moment in time, whatever level of growth, etc, because that is where we are supposed to be.  I was at the animal shelter to look for a kitten, but when I saw the eyes of my faithful friends and teachers to be, I knew I was supposed to rescue them.  I had no idea they would rescue me. When I look into their older, wiser eyes now, I feel as if my heart will explode with gratitude and a love for them I cannot express with words.

(May 1, 2011, both Duke and Amore’ turn 10 years old.  For the past decade, they have been my helpers, my therapists, my sounding boards and my most loyal and loving companions. There are many more lessons than those I wrote about here in their 5th year of life with me. I hear that for larger breeds, everything after 10 is a gift—I say it has already been the best gift ever.)



Comments on: "My Dogs, My Therapists" (2)

  1. aw


  2. Hey, I really loved this! I love stories about animals rescuing humans and vice versa and not just in the physical sense of being rescued from harm’s way or danger, but from yourself. Funny, I was browsing the Southwest Airlines Spirit magazine on the plane home and featured in special mentions was an announcement that their article from last year had won the top award for best news magazine article or something and it was a story called “How Maya saved Jacob” about a dog that becomes a soldier’s therapy dog to help with panic attacks and depression. I remembered it because I had read it previously on the front page article on my last Southwest trip last June to NY, and I was weepy throughout reading Jacob’s story, and Maya’s of course. Anyway, think you’d really appreciate this story so here it is. It’s awesome to know someone that has such a special bond w/their dogs and write so beautifully about it and the lessons learned. Elmo meant the same to me. Enjoy & thanks for sharing!
    (If you scroll to the bottom of the page from this link, you can read the full story in pdf form):


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