It’s true: I’m obsessed with my dog. My mastiff Henry turns four next week, and I can’t help but reflect on the time we’ve had together. Over the years, he’s become a true part of the family, my best friend, and above all, a reminder of what life’s truly about.
If you’ve ever loved a dog, you understand this bond. What we don’t always understand as dog lovers, however, is how much our dogs teach us about ourselves, about others, and about life. Here are ten lessons Henry has taught me.
1. It doesn’t always take a lot to make someone smile.
I don’t know if it’s his sheer size, soulful eyes, or joyful personality, but Henry brings out smiles in everyone. We’ve been walking and had cars stop just to smile and say hello. Henry’s been to the nursing home and to book events. No matter where he goes, he brings out happiness in others just by being present. He’s made me realize that sometimes in life, all we crave is connection and a small moment to get us through.
2. Some of the best days are spent at home.
Henry loves the local pet shops and ice cream shops, don’t get me wrong. However, he’s also just as happy hanging on the couch, napping in the yard, and playing with his mountain of toys. He’s helped me see that sometimes the best days in life are the days parked at home.
3. Don’t be afraid of looking like a fool.
Whether he’s dashing through his sprinkler, barking and running as I dance to Taylor Swift, or just zooming around the yard by himself, Henry isn’t afraid to be silly. He takes every moment for what it is and does what he wants. He doesn’t worry about looking crazy. If only we were all willing to find our own sense of joy without worrying about what others were thinking.
4. It’s okay to be afraid.
Everyone assumes since Henry is so big he’s brave and not afraid of anything. He’s actually afraid of almost everything. As a baby, he was terrified of squirrels. He’s afraid of grates, certain spots on the kitchen floor, and horses, just to name a few.
5. Cupcakes are seriously the best comfort food.
Henry is obsessed with cupcakes—a smart dog, if you ask me.
6. Family keeps you going on the worst days.
On the worst days, Henry is always happy to see us. Even when my husband or I are in the midst of rage, tears, or just frustration, Henry is right there for us. When I feel like life is terrible, Henry’s wagging tail at the door when I get home reminds me that he’s always there for me. He reminds me what unconditional love looks like and that this unconditional love is at home with my family.
7. Don’t be afraid to talk to people.
Henry draws a lot of attention to himself because of his size and his overly social nature. He actively looks for people on our walks to come and pet him, and he will try to “steal” a pet as we walk by people. He loves people and would never shy away from a chance to meet someone.
As somewhat of an introvert, I’ve learned from Henry that connecting with others is a good thing. I’ve met so many great people in our neighborhood thanks to Henry and struck up conversations I would have avoided without him.
8. There are worse things in life than muddy paws on the carpet.
Dogs remind us to not sweat the small stuff. Henry reminds me to find the joy in life and not panic over things that really don’t matter in the scheme of things—such as huge, mastiff-sized muddy paws on the white carpet or on the sofa.
9. Sometimes things we don’t want are the best things of all.
When my husband said we were getting a puppy, I was enraged. I didn’t have time for a puppy. I didn’t want a puppy. I hated Henry before he even got to our house. I hated him for the first month. And then, over time, something happened.
I loved him.
Henry wormed his way into my heart and hasn’t left since. He’s taught me that sometimes the things we need in our lives most of all are things we never would dream of wanting. He’s shown me that the unexpected joys in life sometimes stem from disappointment, anger, or loss. He’s shown me to never thing you have everything figured out.
10. We never, ever get enough time.
As Henry approaches his fourth birthday, I’m thankful for all of the moments we’ve had—but I’m also sad, too. Every birthday that goes by is another year less I get with my best friend and, as any dog lover knows, we already get way too little time with our four-legged best friends. I can’t even imagine what I’m going to do when Henry has celebrated his final birthday, when the moments are gone, and the photographs are all snapped. I don’t know how I’m going to go on without his soulful brown eyes to look at me every day.
I know that no matter how long he lives, it will never be long enough.
However, it is because of this that Henry has taught me the greatest lesson of all; he’s taught me to enjoy every single moment we have with our loved ones. He’s taught me to get off the couch and go for that walk or dash through the sprinkler. He’s taught me to laugh, to have fun, and to soak up every second because life is too short to do anything else.
Happy birthday to my best friend and teacher, Henry.
Lindsay Detwiler is a high school English teacher and a contemporary romance author. To learn more about her seven novels, which all feature Henry as a character, visit www.lindsaydetwiler.com.