Dogs Keep Teaching Us
By Ava Olsen
From puppy to senior, canines offer life lessons daily.
What is cuter than a puppy, cute enough to melt your heart with a single look and make all the work and effort worthwhile.
When you get a puppy you sign on for a hurricane of joy and enthusiasm. Constant activity followed by crashes into deep, deep sleep and then reawakening with all batteries charged and ready to tear into life again at full speed. They are our companions for walks and adventures. They take us outside to see the trees and forests, sunsets and seasons. We work to train them, but they learn to be part of the family.
Dogs have short life spans and we know in the back of our minds when we bring that little puppy home that in a few years we will have a mature dog as part of our family and then an old dog and all of the questions and challenges that go with that. It is our own lifespan in miniature.
My dog is now 9 and has been through a series of health problems that have been heart-wrenching and costly. With so much medical technology now available to our dogs, who are our family members, we have new considerations about quality of life, health insurance and end-of-life decisions that have come to the forefront. It broke my heart to see my dog sick and struggling but I also admired his determination to keep going and to find joy in those things he was still able to do. Now that he has recovered to a point where he goes crazy for his food and loves playing with his toys, my heart feels lighter and happier. Dogs make us laugh, they give us love and unconditional acceptance. The way they approach life with such enthusiasm brings that same enthusiasm to us. They let us see the way they love life and it makes our lives better.
As puppies, they teach us patience; as they age, they teach us a new kind of patience, compassion, love and devotion. They face sickness and death with calm resolve and, in the end, acceptance. We are left to make the decisions about care and medication. We are left to make the decision as to when the pain is too much to be tolerated. We are left to be the grownups but they always remain our teachers.
In our society where families live miles or countries apart, it is our dogs who have become our immediate families. We take them on outings, we care for them, they are there at the end of a hard day to provide a friendly face and a warm hug or face lick. They are also there to aggravate us with inappropriate or bad behavior, like any good family member.
In our society where our old relatives are put in facilities, it is our old dogs who continue to teach us about aging and end of life. Our old dogs give us the patience to go for very slow walks or “sniffing” outings. Our old dogs teach us that even though they are not cute puppies we still love and value them and want to care for them.
Why are there millions of dogs living in our homes? Dogs of all ages? They are here to teach us about family, love, compassion and life from the beginning to the end.
About the Author: Ava Olsen is a long-time dog owner and rescue advocate, and is the Brand Manager for Charlee Bear Dog Treats, headquartered in Madison, Wis. Ava spends a fair amount of time in Costa Rica each year, where she has been known to foster dogs.