Ode to the little dog who has seen me through quite a lot

{Okay, so this isn’t technically an ode but it IS something I wrote in honor of this little buddy I got 4 years ago on the eve of February 13th.}

 

dino heart

 

At the shelter he greeted me with a cheerful hello.

 

I went in search of a big dog that night but something inside me said, this little one might be just right.

 

So I took a leap of faith and decided to bring him home.  Out in the parking lot about to head home, he shot out into the darkness, giving everyone a scare.  We feared the adventure might have been over before it had even begun.  Thankfully, a volunteer from the shelter helped put an end to the excitement, getting him safely back into the car.  And we were off!

 

By the next day, I found myself sobbing.  I wondered if I’d made a big mistake.  After losing my dad and my childhood Labrador, Maize, I learned the hard way that having a new dog wasn’t going to fill all that empty space in my heart.  I missed my Maize dog.  She was the one who had seen me through so much.  And somehow, this new dog made me miss her even more.  After all, he was little and looked quite different.  But most of all, he was simply a dog I didn’t know.

 

My mom wisely said to give it some time.  That one day, before I knew it, I’d be talking about how much this new little dog had seen me through.

 

And she was right.  As my mom often is.

 

Now here I am, four years later, and already I can’t believe how much I’ve endured with this little dog by my side.  It is hard to imagine that not so long ago, as I was inspired to trust that we’d grow together in time, we started a fresh beginning, just a girl and her dog.

 

In that first year, we took training classes and practiced tricks.  Sitting and staying, heeling and shaking.  He thrived.  He loved playing this game called Learning New Things where the rewards were dispensed as tasty bits of treats.  This motivation led him to become the star of each class.  And like a proud parent, I beamed as he passed all of his tests.

 

We sat outside at local coffee shops and walked down the street.  With infectious enthusiasm, he’d greet each person who passed by, showing love to business women, homeless men, and children all the same.  Well, actually, he always has the most excitement the second he sees kids are near!

 

He helped me make the transition to teaching first grade.  He’d greet me with excitement each day when I came home happily exhausted.  And then snuggle next to me at night as I did my final bit of planning for the following day.

 

The following year, when the exhaustion felt more bitter than satisfying, he reminded me of how wonderful the simple things in life could be.  His presence alone brought me a huge sense of joy.

 

Going for walks in the park, he was lively as could be.  Always curious, sniffing things out, and looking for new places to explore.

 

And I have to admit he was daring enough to take off on a handful of adventures on his own.  Once, bounding through the greenery of the hills, out of sight and without a sound, I had no way to find him.  I didn’t know what to do so I had to let go and hope he’d decide to come back on his own.  Which he did.  The second I turned around to walk home.

 

And the following year when the strike of illness left me unable to move from my bed, he remained by my side, letting out a whimper-slash-whine to say he wished I could get up and play.

 

Still he brings me comfort as he curls up on my lap.  Soothing my heart and my mind as I pet his downy soft fur.

 

He hogs my bed during nap time and carefully watches the floor when I eat.  He listens intently when I speak and tilts his head, trying to piece together what I say.  He climbs on my lap and sticks his cold nose in my face.  And when he wags his tail with excitement, his whole body wiggles.

 

He makes me laugh every day and keeps me entertained with an endless array of adorable expressions.  And then there are the moments when I see him all stretch out or all curled up, that a single glance at his resting face makes me breathe a little deeper and gives me an infinite sense of peace.

 

And in those rare but comical moments when he starts to bug me, I ask if he wants me to send him to live with the circus.  Seriously, he’d do quite well there with his repertoire of tricks!  He can crawl like an army cadet, give you ten up high like a sports fan, and run to you from across the room, flipping his body around in an instant to be right at your side, facing the same direction as you.

 

All jokes and tricks aside, deep down I love that each day I get to live my life with this ever loyal and loving little dog by my side.

 

My pup.  My pal.  My prince.

 

It just took a little time.

 

What do you love about your pet(s)?  What have they helped see your through in your life?  I’d love to know!  Send me an e-mail or comment over on the Facebook page!

 

Oh, and here’s Dino wearing a pink bow on Valentine’s Day so I could snap a quick photo!

 

dino pink bow

 

 

Thankful Thursday: Messages from People I Love

Today I received a card in the mail.

I knew it would be special the second I saw the edge of this stamp poking out from the middle of a small stack of mail that was piled in my mailbox.

nemo stamp

You see, this stamp has become kind of a signature.  It’s the stamp of my cousin’s love, meant to remind me of the fun she, my brother, and I had when we went to go see the movie Finding Nemo in theaters.

Inside the envelope I found a beautiful card.

Inside the beautiful card I found hand written messages from each of my family members that live in Mexico, Missouri.

And inside the hand written messages I found a sense of hope, of faith, and of love.

I’m thankful for the people I love, who wrote the messages, that were brought in the card, that was sealed in the envelope, with the Nemo stamp that made its journey possible.

What is the kindest thing?

I start to feel the pressure in my forehead mount, as the pain in my neck expands, and the surge of dizziness becomes stronger.  I’ve been on a roll washing some dishes in the kitchen sink but now my body calls out to me with a quiet intensity, asking me to allow it some rest.

Slowly but surely I’m learning how to listen to my body and respect what it needs, which can be quite frustrating when your mind wants it to do something else.

In a recent phone conversation with a life coach instructor, I explained how I quite literally take everything one bit at a time each day, focusing on how I can best take care of myself in everything I do.  She suggested that I ask myself a specific question periodically to help frame this focus.

So for the last few weeks, I’ve used the following question to guide my actions each day.

“What is the kindest thing I can do for myself right now?”

strawberries in hands

 

 

 

 

 

For me, it is often as simple as taking care of myself by drinking a class of water, eating a healthy snack, or taking a nap.  When I’m feeling up to it, it means taking time to do something I enjoy, like sitting down to do a little writing that could turn into a blog post.  And sometimes it requires taking actions that are in my best interest, like making a phone call I’ve been dreading because I care about the results I know it will bring.  But no matter what the specifics, the act of consciously considering and kindly responding to whatever my body, mind, or soul needs in any given moment makes everything I do feel more joyful.

The act of asking and answering this question with a genuine desire to know and a willingness to respond with love turns the idea of self-compassion into a practice.  It takes us from the space of thinking to a place of action, where we can welcome this kindess and care to become a part of our daily lives.

At some point during the day today, try asking yourself, “What is the kindest thing I can do for myself right now?”  Maybe it will help you decide what to eat for dinner, allow you to realize what evening activity will be most fulfilling for your soul, or provide the space to uncover some painful thoughts you want to talk through with a friend.  Whatever it is, may asking with an open heart and responding with kindness help you treat yourself with the loving compassion that you deserve.