THE BLOG
10/06/2015 03:29 pm ET Updated Oct 06, 2016

Life Lessons Learned One Dog at a Time

meshaphoto via Getty Images


I'm a dog lover. I'm one of those annoying people who show strangers pictures of my dogs. Ever since I was a little girl, my dogs have been a huge part of my life. I've been lucky to have many dogs and have been blessed to learn something different from each one. Like children, dogs have their own unique personalities. They can be goofy or serious, calm or rowdy--but they all share one important trait: they love you like mad.

Let me share some of the amazing life lessons I've learned from each one of my beautiful dogs:

Morgan: It's okay to be lazy--every now and then. The problem with Morgan was that he was lazy all the time which led him to an early demise. If I'd been older (I was 2 years old), I would have taken him on many long walks through the woods.

Maggie: Never run away. Maggie was always going on adventures "without permission". Every time she took off, I'd cry until she got home. A few times she came home with injuries and sadly, one day she never came home. We searched for her for weeks without luck. Running away from home (or problems) is never a good idea.

Mitzi: You don't have to be the biggest dog in the pack to be the leader. Mitzi, a little poodle who weighed about 10 pounds soaking wet, ruled the roost over Ben and Clyde--who together weighed nearly 200 pounds! In some situations in life, size does NOT matter.

Sammy: Live every minute like it may be your last. With a litter of pups crawling all over me, I happen to fall in love with Sammy. He was so sweet but much smaller and more fragile than the others. The owner told us not to take him because he had a heart condition and wouldn't live very long. But sometimes your heart speaks louder than your brain and we took Sammy home. Although his life was very short (6 months) he was happy to be a member of our family and we were very lucky to have him.

Clumsy: You don't have to be graceful to be beautiful. I know that's a bad name for a dog, but honestly, if you'd met Clumsy you would agree. I never knew a dog could be so uncoordinated, and looking back, I wonder if there wasn't something wrong with him. But he sure was beautiful...on the inside and out.

Ben: If someone is sick, let them know you care. Dogs know when you're sick or not feeling well. One time I was in bed for about 3 days and Ben stayed with me the entire time. He refused to eat and had to be dragged outside with a leash to go to the bathroom. He quickly ran back inside and jumped in the bed with me. He let me know he was worried and that he loved me--all at the same time.

Clyde: Being smarter than everyone else isn't nearly as important as being kind. Clyde was so gentle and loving but not the sharpest dog in the world. Fortunately, dogs don't care if they're not as smart as other dogs. They just live...and Clyde lived a very long and happy life.

Sadie: Happiness is a choice. When Sadie started to go blind, I mourned for her. I thought she'd never be happy again. The funny thing is that losing her sight didn't affect her happiness at all. She was happy giving and receiving love--what's more important than that?

Sandy: Be sweet and loving--even during difficult times. Sandy, one of the sweetest dogs I've ever known, developed a horrific form of intestinal cancer when she was 11. When her suffering became too much, we made the gut-wrenching decision to take her to the vet to put her down. She used every ounce of strength to be brave and strong in front of us but when our vet took her to the other room to prepare her for the injection, she collapsed and fell to the ground. Once they brought her back into the room, she garnered the strength to stand and kiss away my tears before lying back down to receive the inevitable injection. I will never forget her strength and love.

Samantha: Don't let pain slow you own. Samantha, the great lover of all food, was the bionic dog. She loved life more than any dog I've ever had even though she suffered more pain than all the others put together. After two ACL repairs, 2 major life-saving abdominal surgeries, and many other near-catastrophic events, Samantha developed severe arthritis in 3 out of her 4 legs. But it never slowed her down. Slowing down meant she might have missed something...and that was NOT Samantha.

Sydney: Always, always...listen to your gut. We all get those strong gut feelings from time to time. You try to wave them off but they eat at you. I had a horrible gut feeling about leaving Stella, Samantha and Sydney with the dog sitter we had been using. I knew he was lying to me about taking care of our girls. I KNEW IT! Sadly, I got the call that confirmed my bad gut feeling on New Year's Day: Sydney was dead. Tom (the supposed dog sitter) had neglected them and they broke out of the house. So please, always listen to your gut.

Stella: Take your meds. I could write an entire novel about the antics of my big, beautiful Great Lab Stella. I called her a Great Lab because her mom was a Great Dane (named Molly) and her father was a horny black lab. Whether she was breaking into refrigerators to drink bottles of beer or destroying furniture, Stella was a fragile dog who suffered from severe separation anxiety. When our vet eventually prescribed Prozc (fluoxetine), Stella became the happiest dog in the world! I only wish we had given it to her sooner. She lived a good long life (14 years) and was grateful for the miracles of modern medicine.

Jessie: Show your gratitude--every day. After we lost Samantha, I sobbed for weeks. For the first time in her life, Stella was our only dog and she too was depressed. I spent hours searching on-line for a rescue dog. Tears streamed down my face as I looked through hundreds of photos of dogs who desperately needed homes. And then I saw her face and I knew she had to be mine. She was behind bars and looked so sad but I knew her sadness would evaporate the minute we brought her home. She wagged her tail in appreciation and it's never stopped. She is the most grateful, loyal and loving dog in the world. People always say how lucky Jessie was that we found her on that website. I say that we're the lucky ones.

Dogs are sweet, appreciative, loving and loyal. They lick your tears away when you're crying and romp with you when you're happy. They are always happy to see you and they love you unconditionally. Please share some of the wonderful life lessons that you've learned from your dogs. And remember, as much as it hurts when you lose a 4-legged member of your family, never stop loving them. They will always love you back.