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Ode' to Man's Best Friend

2020 has been a challenging year. One that caused us to pull up our socks and learn to stay calm and carry on. For me, it was a year filled with family health challenges, work intensities, mental weariness, and loss. Despite that, there were some silver linings, but this year is challenging for the most part. Can you relate?

On December 16, 2020, my family and I said goodbye to our dog, Willow. Willow was no average dog. Sure she had her bugaboos like saying high by sniffing in awkward places, dumpster diving in her puppy years, and an occasional inappropriate barking fit. Despite all that, Willow was most known for being a people pleaser, fun-loving, energetic Labrador Retriever. She loved our family as well as a dog could. Faithful till the very end.

The last six months or so were challenging as she battled cancer that eroded her joy. Despite that, her tail wagged, and she stayed strong and resolute. She never lost her temper and remained our shadow – always by our side.

Recently it was hard to remember all the good years as we were fighting for some good days. However, for whatever reason, our memories sharpened the moment we said goodbye to our family friend.

Can a dog, like a human, leave a legacy? I don't know for sure…but I hope so, I think so…In Willow's case, I know so.

I thought I'd share my top three lessons of life learned from a lifetime with Willow, the dog.

Stay – Raising Willow; we learned the importance of consistent boundaries. Willow wanted to please us, but she needed to know what those boundaries were to be the best version of herself. Sometimes temptation got the best of her but, not often. When she had a clear idea of what was expected, she wagged her tail and gladly complied. Boundaries for Willow freed her to enjoy all of her life without worrying. As her human friends, it helped us learn that despite our spiraling emotions, Willow is at her best when the "pack" rules were applied equally by all members of the family. Almost magically, the power of consistent boundaries opened up her puppy personality and let her be amazing. Willow loved when we played the games - sit, stay, crawl, sing, speak, potty (don't say that in the house), fetch the paper, kiss, dance, and get your ball. She even seemed to appreciate the occasional - no!

Play: Dogs are meant to have tails, and anyone who's owned a Labrador understands the power of a wag. Mostly because it will spill your drinks, knock over valuables, and cause all sorts of chaos while reminding you of joy. Perhaps the peak of Willow's pleasure was when we played.

She loved it! Even when her body was failing, she could turn it on and do her best if you wanted to play. In hard times, when we humans were taking things too seriously and emotionally breaking down, here comes Willow. Ball in mouth and tail wagging as if to remind us to play our worries away. It always worked.

Pray – Despite her lifetime of youthful energies, she always seems to enjoy the quiet times when she understood the best medicine was her presence. It was in these moments she came over to read a book or pray with us. Now she didn't pray but centered us on something other than our problems and listened in as we confessed, implored, and thanked our maker.

Great pet friends, like Willow, have an unusual way of understanding human emotions. She knew when to stay, play, and pray. I'm not sure there will ever be another dog as special in our family. She's a tuff act to follow. But as we get used to her not being at home, we will always remember the legacy she left us—what a doggone fantastic gift.


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