When my husband and I got married we immediately had a baby girl. We were young and both working ridiculously crazy hours, but still somehow we thought that having a baby girl – a four-legged, beautiful puppy, would complete us. She totally did. Thirteen years later, our baby girl struggles and her remaining days at our side are few. And, as I reflect on and celebrate her life with us, I’ve discovered that the love lessons she has shown us are the very ones we should be using with each other.
Lesson #1: Forgiveness. One day, I opened our back door to encourage the baby outside. Our back door extends onto a small deck followed by eight stairs that lead down to our patio and grassy areas where she does her business. As she proceeded onto the small deck pausing before attempting her decent, I closed the door and accidentally caught her back leg.
In an instant, she rolled log style down all the stairs, landing on her back with her feet straight up in the air. She quickly turned over, found her footing, stood up to give me a quick glance and then went straight on with her life like nothing had happened to her.
I, of course, was mortified, as we all would be, having just thrown our babies down a flight of stairs (which of course I have accidentally done to my son as well, but that’s another story.)
But engrained in my mind is that she forgave me, instantly and without pause or thought. Imagine how magnificent our worlds would be if our hearts could do that for one another. Grudges would be replaced with smiles.
Lesson #2: Friendly Greetings. When our baby was little I admit to being a little embarrassed when we would venture on a new person and she would jump all over them. She would even at times tackle us as we walked through the front door – that of course I loved. But, I did wonder when her enthusiasm would settle. And now that it has and she barely gives a small tail wag when we come up, I long for her loving greetings.
So, instead, I try to give them to my people when they walk in our door. I fail at this sometimes because I am in the middle of cooking dinner or homework, which means I might barely give an acknowledgement. But our baby has shown us that if we just greet each other with a little warmness and love, our hearts soften and we are ready to receive and embrace whatever lies before us.
Lesson #3: Asking for what we want from each other. Dogs are the best at asking for what they want to the point of harassing you until you actually give it to them. Their bark, nudge or wagging before us says instantly what they seek.
But the real question is, do you do that for yourself? It took me about three decades to realize how to do this and in the end the not asking cost me heavily in my own career (read about that here).
If the puppies can, surely we can.
Lesson #4: Love comas. Dogs love to lick us, sit by us, climb into our laps, ride in our cars, hike with us and, basically, be all over us. They are a constant source of physical love that can induce us straight into a love coma.
What if you behaved that way with your people? What if we took time to sit on the couch every day together side by side? What if we held hands and hugged more? What if we ate dinner sitting together every evening. I think our resulting love comas would render us completely useless and absolutely joyful.
Lesson #5: Moving our bodies. From ruling the dog park with her constant running to sneaking out of our back gate to explore unknown territories, our baby girl was in constant motion. And that motion came with happiness and contentment at the end of each day.
Move your butt, it’s that simple.
Lesson #6: Unconditional Love. I remember one evening I had returned home from the hospital with my husband after chemotherapy early that day. While he had our boys downstairs, our baby girl laid with me while I slept off a bag of Benadryl.
Nose to nose. Bald head to furry head.
She didn’t care what I looked like or if I cried or that I felt horrible. She just laid right beside me, no matter. That night I whispered with wonder asking her who she thought would be with our boys longer, her or me. Turns out, I was wrong.
And even though she will leave us soon, her lessons in constant and unconditional love, that encourage us to love each other in the very same way, will always remain.
P.S. Want to pass on these love lessons to your kiddos this summer? Check out the classic books on our reading list for kids this summer, which include several stories about dogs who not only have touched our hearts but shown us all the love lessons. (read here)