THE BLOG
10/07/2016 11:30 am ET Updated Oct 08, 2017

6 Vital Ways Dogs Make Life Better!

Ever find yourself fighting an epic battle between your heart and head? This happened to me this week when I accidentally strolled into our local animal shelter. Yes, I'm thinking of adopting another dog. And yes, I just went through the sad saga of "putting down" my sweet, old canine Simon. And yes, dogs can be pains. But as time goes by, I realize they also improve life in 6 vital ways...

Dogs are crazy - Okay, in his itinerant youth it wasn't funny when Simon escaped through some unlatched door. An hour later he'd slink back covered in rancid-smelling muck from the neighborhood pond. We'd all have to stop what we were doing and hose him down.

Yet... it was kind of funny. We'd towel him off (outside) and then he'd give one of his epic dry-off shakes that felt like a tsunami and got everyone soaked. Think it's impossible to laugh and grimace at the same time? Try living with a dog.

Dogs don't sweat the small stuff - And basically everything is small stuff with dogs. Ever see pictures of canines sleeping with other creatures on top of them? Kids, puppies, cats, parakeets, toys, gerbils, it doesn't matter. They take things as they come. They're chill.

Simon accepted life in a way that would rouse the late spiritualist Wayne Dyer to jealousy. You know dogs aren't rehashing litter issues or scheming how to get their favorite chew toy next week. They're focused on now. How nice to have a family member so easy-going, so in the moment, so Zen.

Dogs love life -- They take pleasure where they can. And yes, this can lead to ahem, "non-discreet" behavior. But no one does uninhibited like a dog. There's a nice spot of sun? Simon would happily lie there. It didn't matter if it was in the middle of a crowded living room.

When dogs are thirsty, they drink. When they're hungry, they eat. When they need to chase the cat, they go for it. Taking a walk or car ride? They're mad with joy. Who can resist such joie de vivre?

Dogs are loyal - Simon followed me everywhere, including sometimes the bathroom. And I still find myself expecting him to come galloping toward me when I come home, all tail wags and smiles. He'd trot from room to room, always on my heels. He'd lie in the dining room, angled in such a way he could watch me putter around the kitchen. It made me feel important, like I had an entourage. I miss that.

Sadly, as he grew older, he still followed me. "Simon, at ease," I'd tell him as he struggled to keep up with arthritic joints. But he wasn't having it. Simon never shirked his duty to stay close, to defend and protect. He was steadfast till his last day.

Dogs forgive -- Once I accidentally left Simon outside for hours on a cold, rainy day. I hurried to bring him in, wiping off his soaked fur with a towel. All I could do was murmur, "I'm sorry," as I touched my face to his neck. His response? He licked my hand. He was over it.

Dogs take nothing personally. Someone's in a bad mood and snaps at them? No problem. Next time all is forgotten. They forgive and move on. Who can resist such Gandhi-like restraint?

Dogs teach us grace - At the end of his life, Simon seemed to understand his time had come. By now he was old with a gray muzzle. He was in constant pain from bad joints. He could barely see or hear. At the last vet visit, he took his final moments with dignity as my son Patrick and I told him how much we loved him. And before passing, he even gave one last smile as if to say it was okay. He was ready.

Can you blame me for missing such a great friend and companion? Yes, my house is cleaner, Yes, it's nice not worrying about him running away. Yes, it's great planning a vacation without having to board a dog.

Still...

Famous heart surgeon, Bernie Siegel once said, "Want to learn to love? Get a dog."

I'd take that one step farther. Want to learn to live? Want to learn to approach each day with openness, joy and compassion? Want to enjoy each moment, feel deeply and always get up on the right side of the bed?

You got it.

Oh dear. I think my heart is winning.