Not long ago, I made the decision to end my old dog’s life, and with it, his pain and suffering. With that decision, I realized that a closely-held belief had formed during my eleven and a half years with my best friend. It is a belief that has helped me cope with the recent loss of my friend, and it is one I hope to carry with me until such time my old friend and I are reunited.
He was the worst puppy in the world at first, probably because I wasn’t the best dad in the world at first either. He chewed anything he could get his sharp little puppy teeth on. I learned that he did this not because he hated me or because he liked the taste of my things, but because he was teething and his gums hurt a lot, and chewing relieved some of the pain and pressure of growing an entirely new set of teeth. I learned that he cried and screamed when I put him in his crate at first not because he was insecure or defective or because I was hurting him by doing so, but because he was cold, had to go out, and because he might be hungry.
I also observed and learned some other things about my dog and, ultimately, about myself.
My dog didn’t care what other dogs or people thought. He lived in the here and now. He was always grateful to eat whenever he got a chance, but he never obsessed over it. We he was hungry, he wasn’t picky, and he ate everything I put in front of him. He slept when he was tired, played when he was able, and he never made messes where he bedded down for the night.
He never killed or hurt another dog because it happened to be of a different breed or color or size or shape. He was never jealous of my affection for other dogs. He never worked himself to death or to high blood pressure or to substance abuse by working long hours for another wealthier or smarter or more unethical or crooked dog. He didn’t intentionally hurt anyone’s feelings or abuse anyone. He was always happy to see the people he loved, but he was never possessive of them or insecure about them leaving or being away.
My dog never listened to marketers and ad companies telling him that if he only had this or that or the other, then he’d be a complete and happy dog. He didn’t worry about the horrible things going on in the world, and he never watched television. My dog never told me I should have a newer, nicer car or a bigger house in a better neighborhood. Whatever he had was always just enough, so long as the car got us to the grocery store, and the house kept out the rain, wind and snow.
He didn’t vote or care about politics. Like most dogs, he was content in his place and role in the world because all dogs occupy the same station – just existing, just there. Dogs generally and genuinely seem to like being dogs in every sense of the word, and my old friend was certainly no exception.
I believe that if I’m able to live up to my old dog’s example, my life will be meaningful and rich. I believe that the memory of my best friend will live as long as I remember to take joy in the things that actually matter and truly bring happiness. Finally, I believe that life as an old dog is a life worth living, and that living is best done in the present with those I love, just as my old dog lived. It is a lesson and a belief that I will carry with me for all of my days, and one which I hope guides the remainder of my choices and actions.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.