Writing about “Lessons from a Dog” is a way I can pay tribute to my beloved, Bailee, a 17 year old Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, who very recently passed away.
She was 55 pounds of sporting breed energy and of course adorable and very smart. I got her initially for companionship, protection and something to motivate me to get walking. She provided all those things and so much more.
I was incredibly fortunate to have this dog in my life. I have no children, so of course she became “my girl”. Pets are the perfect child substitute; they love you unconditionally even when you drop them off for boarding and return days or weeks later to pick them up. They are always happy to see you. Another great benefit is no college tuition to pay, although Bailee did require her share of obedience schools and private trainers due to her willful nature. But that made her all the more human to me.
She loved to do the outrageous, she could dive to the bottom of our 10 foot deep swimming pool and retrieve a toy. She would hunt squirrels in the yard in Maryland and lizards in Florida yielding the areas completely barren. I think her proudest moment was when a wild bird had gotten into the house and she caught it midair. Her bite was so soft, she didn’t even hurt the bird, just released it when we requested. (Of course I was frantic and screaming.)
Although I knew her passing was near, it is still a painful experience, but also a thought provoker. As I think about her, and our life together I am reminded of the many great personality traits she exhibited daily. Here are a few lessons from a dog I learned:
Trust Your Instincts
Whether hunting in the yard or protecting her human pack, she operated instinctively. I do this also, but sometimes I question my own gut feeling. In photography, if I see a great shot I vow to stop and take it. When my gut tells me to light a certain way in the studio, I will take the time and effort required to do exactly what my instincts are telling me to do.
Time Is Inconsequential
I do my best work and am the happiest when I live and work in the moment, A dog does that EVERY single moment of their life. This was so evident living with a dog experiencing declining health. One day she may be near death and the next day running jubilantly through the yard totally obvious to her previous bad day. But we humans often are looking towards the next thing we are going to do or recounting past experiences unable to fully embrace the moment we are currently experiencing. To be present in the moment and enjoy each one is worth the extra effort.
Take time to Stretch
A good stretch feels good any time and is good for you, which is why animals do it all the time. It is good for your muscles, ligaments and organs. But let me take it further and use my imagination to stretch my thinking and creativity. I plan to stay out of my box.
Eat Your Vegetables
Up until her final years, Bailee loved carrots and broccoli and I firmly believe eating those, along with generally a healthy diet, good exercise and lots of loving extended her life. The breed’s expected lifespan is only 12-14 years. So eat up!
This is perhaps my favorite. Bailee attacked life. From the moment she came into my life at 8 weeks till her passing 11 days shy of 17 years, she was so inquisitive and would try anything. Once she escaped the yard and was found on the beach close to the house. Well, I know she didn’t walk on the path. She undoubtedly ran up the street, cut through the private golf course (probably dropped a load along the way) and trespassed though some private beachfront properties to get to the beach to sniff, run and play. I am sure there was not an ounce of fear in her. She was a true adventurer. Now I am not recommended trespassing, but if a questionable or risky opportunity arises, I am going take it and think of Bailee.
My man and I feel a huge void in our lives since her passing. I know as time goes on life will fill the void and the pain will diminish, but for this week I am content to reminisce and savor her memory. To view more images of “my girl” or learn about Wirehaired Pointing Griffons check out her website.
“Bailee” © Susan McAnany, All Rights Reserved
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