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Five Life Lessons We Learn From Our Dog- And They're Not What You Think

Updated on November 2, 2014

Our Dog Can Shape Our Character

I’ve had dogs all my life, and when I think back on each and every one of them, I realize I couldn’t have adjusted to my life’s trials and tribulations without them. We all know the clichés of being dog owners. For example, “A dog is a man’s best friend.” True. Dogs also love us when no one else does at any moment in time. True. Dogs teach children responsibility; another important truth. However, upon closer inspection, I am continually amazed by the deeper, more profound ways our canine friends help us in life. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have my dogs.

Our dogs teach us how to be patient. Most dogs’ love is so loyal and strong that they will patiently hold back their bodily functions as long as they can to please us. My dogs have always had big yards to enjoy when I was at work. Then they stay in all evening to get their love and attention. However, I never understood their true patience until my Golden Retriever, B.J., pointed it out to me. My first husband and I were going through a sad divorce, so I kept B.J. with me at all times. She even accompanied me to work because I needed her and my students loved her. She was my lifeline to the world. I was in a counseling session to deal with the divorce one day after work with B.J. by my side. Well, I ignored her movements of going to the door and back to me during that hour because I was totally into my own emotions. With a look of utter embarrassment, she finally released her bladder on the office carpet just before the session ended. I felt awful for her. I didn’t scold B.J. because she was patiently trying to tell me over and over without interrupting my session. Most of us whine, yell, or curse if we don’t get our needs met in a timely manner. I learned that holding back a bit until the time is right to release my needs has been a healthy lesson in my second marriage.

Dogs listen to their intuitions. I was taking care of a friend’s dog for the day one summer, so I took her along with me to the beach. Blamer, a large mutt, was a loving, friendly dog who seemed to like everyone. However, when a strange man approached us to talk to me, Blamer immediately stood up in front of me and growled. He tried to sweet talk her while continuing to walk toward me, but she would have none of it and began to bark incessantly. Thank God he finally walked away. I felt that I had dodged something evil, but Blamer absolutely knew that I did. How many times have we allowed an unsavory person into our lives, without trusting our own intuitions?

Dogs give depression a run for its money. None of us can walk through the fields of life without getting our feet muddy every now and then. Life is tough and it can knock us down without a moment’s notice. When my father left, I had my Dachshund, Missy, to lick my tears and give me new hope for fourteen years. B.J.’s love and loyalty gave me the strength to get through a sad divorce, and she was there when I met the love of my life. Dogs are being used in most elder care homes to lessen the loneliness; and, inmates raise service dogs to give their lives new meaning. More than a best friend, our dog is our guardian angel when we are in desperate need of being saved.

Dogs teach us to live in the moment. I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t asked themselves, “I wonder what my dog is thinking?” It’s during those down times when our dog is resting quietly at our feet, eyes alert and ears twitching, when this question comes up. We humans spend such an inordinate amount of time during the day worrying about jobs, bills, health and family that we seem to have lost sight of how to rest our brains at all. Even sleep has become a time of restlessness and worry. One of the few times of my day when I am totally in the moment and at peace is when I walk my dogs. I can feel my body relaxing into my breaths when I watch my dogs’ joy at finding new scents, sights and sounds. Their whole body is immersed in these tail-wagging moments. My old guy, Benny, is now thirteen. He limps a bit with arthritis, but when it’s time to walk, he becomes a young stud again. He jumps at his leash, barks with happiness, and trots along like a runner in his prime. Both of my dogs can’t contain their enthusiasm of being in the moment when everything around them is simply perfect. It’s truly contagious because I often stop to roll around in the grass with them before it’s time to go back to my reality.

Dogs teach us how to die with dignity. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard the phrase, “We don’t let our pets suffer the way humans have to when they have an incurable illness.” Right now as I type, Brittany Maynard is fighting for her right to die in California. She had to move to Oregon to die in peace, her way, with her family when she decides the time is right. Our dogs are more fortunate if they are in a loving home. I don’t even want to recount how many times I have had to let my dogs go peacefully in my arms in veterinary offices all over California; however, with each passing, I felt so honored and blessed to have been with them. I would never let my cancer ridden dogs (or cats) suffer to their last breath without medicine to ease them home. And even more astounding, none of my dogs ever complained about being deathly ill- their continual obedience and love prevailed until our last moments together. When our female lab golden mix, Bonney, stopped eating, our older lab mix boy, Benny, would go to the other side of the yard and bring her the pears she loved to eat off the tree. She could barely lift her head when he dropped them by her mouth, but her loving eyes and gentle paw tap told Benny that she was grateful for his love. I hope and pray I have the same leaving as my dogs- being surrounded by loved ones with humane doses of gentle drugs to take me home to my Maker. I repeat, “I wouldn’t be me without my dogs.”


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    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      3 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Hi Jeaninne ,

      This is an awesome and an interesting hub (or article as I tend to call it). Being a dog person, I loved every bit you wrote.

      You are absolutely correct. There is a great learning from our dogs. My first hub on these pages was about the same thing, although from a different angle.

      I learned a lot from what you wrote. Having read it, I must honestly admit that now I consider it a true blessing to be living with K2, my great white kuvasz boy.

      I hope you will share more along the same line.

      Best regards,

    • JEscallierKato profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeaninne Escallier Kato 

      3 years ago from Rocklin, CA

      Thank you Bill and Nadine. Aren't dog people (cat people as well) the best? The worst part of having a dog is their short lifespan. We have all had to grieve a dog at some point and it never gets easier...

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 

      3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Your post made me both tearful for remembering my Cocker Spaniels - Snoopy, Scamper, Joris and Pluis. Happy for having had them all in my life past. My last Cocker friend died on my lap at the ago of 17. He was the only one who died of old age. We now use his name as a password. The others we needed to put down due to the fact that their quality of life was not worth living anymore. If only we could do this for our human close friends and family. We are now bonded with Sophie a Siamese and she is just as much a true companion. I will share your post onto my social network. Well done.

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 

      3 years ago from Minnesota

      I'm ten years cancer free and feeling great. I'm a miracle for sure. I was given only a 20% chance of making five years, yet here I am. Faith and love and support helped me through. Have a great day my new friend. So glad we found each other here :-)

    • handymanbill profile image


      3 years ago from western pennsylvania

      Dogs are amazing animals. I have always had one in my life. They just become a part of you. Everything that you said about dogs are true.

    • JEscallierKato profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeaninne Escallier Kato 

      3 years ago from Rocklin, CA

      Minnetonka Twin and Mary, your kind words made me cry...Yes, we dog lovers have had our guardian angels all of our lives because they surely were sent to us from a higher power. I hope your cancer is beat, Twin, and you are on the road to healing. I will follow you both.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      3 years ago from Florida

      As another dog lover, I can relate to everything you say in this Hub. I have a Miniature Schnauzer named Baby, and she truly is my Baby. She has trained me well!

      Voted UP, etc.etc. and shared.

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 

      3 years ago from Minnesota

      This got me so teared up. Dogs are so loving and healing for us. I have two rescue dogs which rescued my family more than we did them. Like you, I also have a thirteen year old dog Joey who has arthritis. I also have a five year old. Both dogs are lab mixes.

      Your story about Bonney and Benny really choked me up. I could feel the love between the two dogs, even at a time of sadness.

      I live with my twin sister and her two kids. When I first moved in, sis had been recently divorced and the kids were very sad and depressed. At the same time, I was diagnosed with cancer. I can tell you that if I wouldn't have had Joey to stay with me during those times, I don't know if I could of done it. He was with me when my sister was at work and the kids were at school. Joey also pulled both kids out of their depression and helped them learn how to deal with anger in a proper way.

      Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story of your dogs. You are so right that dogs teach us so much and help us get through this crazy life. Blessings and hugs to you and your dog/dogs. Sharing this hub all over!


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