Life Lessons from My Dog

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


This past weekend was the worst one of my life. My partner in crime and best friend of 11 years died suddenly of a ruptured tumor near his kidney. My husband and I do not have children so in many ways Harper was our child. To those of you who have actual children, you may scoff at this idea but until you have actually walked in my shoes, please do not judge. The house seems so empty and everything reminds me of him in some way. The grief is very real and more than I ever anticipated. For those of you with dogs, you understand that the life span of your pets is but a heartbeat so we enter into the relationship knowing they will not outlive us. However, the bonds that are forged span a lifetime. We were very fortunate in that Harper’s sudden passing meant that he did not suffer. My last image of him is sitting in the surgical suite with one paw on my shoulder and him looking at me as if to say “Mom, I’m going to be fine. It’s just a little surgery.” He was also so reassuring in that way. Over the past few days, in between my ugly crying spells and reflection I’ve put together some lessons that Harper taught me over the years. Funny that we often think we are training and teaching our pets yet the lessons they teach us are far, far greater.

Love Unconditionally

Harper loved almost everyone and he instinctively knew when you needed his love the most. Just a few months after I adopted him, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. I’ll never forget him coming to her bedside to lay his head on her hand to offer her some comfort. Many times over the years he would curl up next to me in bed and lay his head on my heart and comfort me as I cried or worried over some challenge. If he didn’t like someone, he would also become fiercely protective and I trusted his instincts about people and on several occasions he proved that he knew best when someone with questionable motives came around. However, he wasn’t biased over someone’s race, religion, sexual preference or lifestyle choice. People should really pay more attention to a dog’s behavior. The world would be a much happier and peaceful place.

Protect Your Loved Ones

We used to joke that Harper stayed on ‘high alert’ most of the time. It’s true he had a hard time relaxing but mostly he assumed the role of protector of the house, especially when my husband began traveling for work and we were at home alone. I realized this early on when I was living by myself and Harper woke me up barking like crazy. Of course, I kept telling him to be quiet. Finally he did calm down but he slept by the back door the rest of the night. When I walked outside the next morning to go to work, my car had been broken into and Harper was the only one who realized it! I never doubted him from that moment on.

Forgive and Forget

Harper used to sneakily get into the trash or better yet, he would somehow manage to sneak bacon off of a paper towel without so much as even touching the napkin. It was a skill, for sure, but he would be reprimanded. It didn’t take much; all I had to do was use a stern voice and his ears would go back and he would look down guiltily. However, a minute later he was back to wagging his tail and coming to cuddle with me on the couch. He got over our spats very quickly and resumed being the ‘happy-go-lucky’ dog I loved. And he forgave me many times when I would forget to pick up his dog food and he would have to eat rice for dinner. Maybe that was easier to forgive but the point is that he didn’t hold grudges and never dwelled on the past.

Live In the Moment

Harper lived each day (and each moment) to the fullest. You’d never catch him worrying about yesterday. Perhaps his biggest worry was catching that squirrel which we’ll discuss in just a moment. He was present in every moment and even in his final few days he was chasing squirrels, getting into the trash and snuggling with me on every occasion. He lived a life with no regrets and in so many ways he was my role model.

Never Give Up the Chase

Every single day Harper would wake up excited to face the day and run to the backdoor and literally jump off our back deck to chase the same squirrels. And every time he failed! The beauty is that he faced each day with the same excitement and the chase never got old. He motivated me so many mornings to go chase my day with the same level of enthusiasm.


My beloved fur baby has left me with so many wonderful memories. And his wisdom about living a full life each and every day will stay with me always. Go chase those squirrels, Harper! I’ll see you again one day.

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