Sunday, August 14, 2011

Life Lessons from a Dog

On May 21, the day before I turned twenty-five (again, wink, wink), my husband and I drove out to Madera and picked out a nine-week-old lab puppy.  We knew we wanted a female yellow lab and had already decided on the name Cadence. When we met her, with her pretty green eyes, big floppy ears, and the way she seemed to bounce instead of walk, the name fit her perfectly.

My family always had dogs growing up, and my roommates had them in the house I lived in before I got married.  However, it's been a while since I've had a dog that was truly "mine."  Now that I do, and I spend a considerable amount of time training, walking, running, and playing with this puppy, I am reminded of how much animals can really teach us about life.  A dog's perspective of life is refreshing - most of the time she seems thrilled simply to be alive.  It's as though every part of life is a fascinating adventure to her.

When we first got Cadence, we let her sleep on the floor in our room.  Sometime between 4 and 5am each morning, we would get woken up - often by chewing noises or panting, sometimes a crash (uh oh), but usually by a little brown nose right in our faces, and a pink tongue licking our faces as Cadence strained to reach the top of the bed standing on her hind legs.  Her entire demeanor seemed to say "Guys!  It's a new day!  Come on, wake up!  It's time to play!"  All we wanted to do was keep sleeping and avoid the day ahead for a couple more hours, but she couldn't wait to tackle it head-on! 

She absolutely loves life.  Going for a run is an adventure all to itself - so much to see, so much to smell!  I am constantly reminded that though she's just a member of the canine species, she is in at least one way more wise than I.  As is the tendency for us people, I tend to focus on all I don't have.  Little Cadence reminds me that life is a gift.  She isn't concerned with money, possessions, appearance, or ego.  She loves the simple things in life - a ball to chase, a nap, water to play in, a belly rub, a tasty bone, a word of praise from her master.  These things are all she needs to be content.  And even when you take all of that away, somehow she is still just happy to be alive.

A couple days ago I came home from a mentally exhausting day at work, wishing I had more hours in the day, more money in the bank, a car with air conditioning, a cleaner house...the usual grievances.  And then I saw my dog.   She got spayed last week, so she has painful stitches down her middle and a swollen belly.  She can't run, jump, or be in water (everything she loves) for two weeks after the surgery.  To top it all off, she has to wear an Elizabethan collar cone around her neck to keep her from licking or biting her stitches.  This makes it hard for her to do basic things that she usually does like hold a bone in her paws while she chews it.  And she keeps knocking into things and accidentally hitting things when she walks around because she's not used to having something around her head that takes up so much space.  It's pretty pitiful.  If I were her, I'd be hating life. 

Yet, none of this seemed to bother her as she bounced over to me and lay her (cone) head against my leg.  And suddenly I felt very silly for allowing any kind of complaint to occupy my mind.  Who was I to wallow in self pity when this little creature was still content just to be alive and with me?  She could do nothing but lie on the ground wearing a lampshade and yet still she had a big puppy grin and her face and a wagging tail.

So my dog is somehow teaching me a life lesson - to count my blessings (and there are many!) and not the things that I don't like about my life.  The funny thing is, that when I start to count my blessings instead of my complaints, I find that I have so many more to fit in the first category.  I guess Cadence really is on to something.

Philippians 2:14-16
 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure,children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.

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