Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What My Dog Taught Me About Life

My last Christmas with my sweet baby girl, Justice.
December 2012

She was meant to be a champion. I think that’s why she was born on Super Bowl Sunday. And she really was. Not a show champion, but a champion in spirit. It was Easter Sunday, April 23, 2000 when I brought her home with me. I had no idea how much she would change my life or how much she would come to mean to me. She was 12 weeks old the day I brought her home. To that point, she was the most adorable thing I had ever seen in my life. For the moment, it was just me and her against the world. I was going through the worst time of my life at that point. I was only a couple of months out from kicking Mr. Wrong to the curb, and our divorce wasn’t even final yet. I was lost and lonely and had no idea how much she would fill the void.

As a newly living single woman, I thought long and hard about a good name for her. It seems to me there was only one name that ever seemed right and it was the name I gave her. I joked about how I needed to give her the name I chose, because who in their right mind upon trying to enter my home uninvited would continue in after hearing her frenzied barking and me calling “Justice” down? Those were my thoughts anyway. So, it was me and Justice.

As a pup, she would curl up on the pillow right next to me and sleep. She was always by my side. I learned early on she was terrified of thunderstorms. No matter how big she got though, she never realized she was too big to sit in my lap when the thunder started rolling (or any other time for that matter). That was easier when she weighed 20 pounds than it was once she hit 90! She was with me always and for as much as I comforted her through the storms in life, she comforted me far more than I ever did her.

When the time came that our little family of two would expand, Justice welcomed every new member heartily. She became our protector. She looked after and loved my husband and children more than I thought was possible for an animal. The more they loved her; the more it seemed she loved them back. My children delighted in using her as a pillow, an object to pull up to standing, a trash compactor, a friend, a comforter and so much more. Each new role she was presented with was met with patience and grace. Those were her babies, too.

I never imagined when I brought her home over 13 years ago that our relationship would develop into such a strong bond. I had no idea how just her mere presence would comfort and calm me through my own storms in life. The most poignant for me being the days following my miscarriage. She instinctively knew something was very wrong. As faithful as ever, she stayed with me every moment. She was there for me and comforted me right down to licking my tears. Losing her two days ago, well, it’s left a hole in my heart I don’t think I’ll ever really be able to fill.

I have long heard the adage, “I want to be as good a person as my dog thinks I am.” There’s so much truth to that. Honestly though, I think it’s almost a little backward. I wonder sometimes if it shouldn’t read, “I want to be as good a person as my dog is.” I know this may sound trite to a person who isn’t a big animal lover, and I recognize we can’t all be. I also know some people don’t understand the love a human can have for a dog or vice versa. That’s cool, too. Some people are animal people and some are not. Regardless of what your personal feelings are in regards to animals, it doesn’t change the fact that my dog taught many things.

Here are a few of those things:
    - There’s no such thing as giving too much love.
    - You should let people know you will miss them even if you know you’ll see them tonight.
    - Forgiveness is divine.
    - Thunderstorms are really scary, but less scary with someone you love.
    - Exercise can be a lot of fun especially when it’s a thrown tennis ball.
    - Comforting someone you love doesn’t require knowing the “right” words to say. Sometimes it requires no words at all.
    - It’s as important to accept praise as it is to give it.
    - Patience is a virtue.
    - You should let people know you are happy to see them even if you just saw them this morning.
    - The desire to help and love can transcend almost any barrier.

I could probably create an endless list if I really tried. These are a few of the bigger points. I guess what all of this boils down to is simply this: It’s easy in life to get caught up in the negative. It’s easy to get stressed out. It’s easy to feel sad. It’s easy to feel lonely. It’s easy to wonder, “Why me?” If you really want it to be though, it could be just as easy to find the positive. It could be easy to let go of worry. It could be easy to be happy. It could be easy to not feel alone. It could be easy to think, “I am blessed.”

I always knew my dog was great, but I never really knew just how much my dog had taught me about “living life at 90%”. I’m really hoping as I continue through this process of self-discovery and self-improvement that I can teach others and help and inspire people. I also hope some day I’ll be as wonderful as my dog.



  1. I'm bawling. For the loss of Justice, who was one of the sweetest and most loving creatures I have ever known, and for your pain and emptiness over the loss of Justice. I would give the world to be able to take your pain away right now. I hope you know that I share it, as I loved her as one of my own furry babies. She. was. magnificent.

    She truly was a great dog. That seems so trite, in reference to her. I remember bringing my puppy, Milo, down to Tennessee for visits, and Justice just going nuts over having another sweet doggy to play with. Those two hit it off like gangbusters, because they were such similar souls. The two of them taught me how immense our capacity to love is. They also taught me much about love and forgiveness. No matter how long it had been, Justice welcomed me & Milo at the door, with excited woofs and licks and so, so, so much love. <3 They knew they were family from the first time they met. They knew that because they knew Stephie & I were family. So, they welcomed their sibling.

    As I type this, images of them romping through the woods and brush in Christiana flash through my mind. They were so happy. So, so happy. They loved each other so completely, much as you & I do, love. They were meant to be friends, as you & I were.

    I do believe that this world brings together extraordinary beings. I do believe that Justice, sweet baby Justice, lovey girl, was an extraordinary being. I believe that Milo, sweet baby lovey, lovey Milo, was as well. There is a reason the two of them bonded so instantly, so deeply. They loved each other, in a mirror image of their mommas' love for each other. They were so, so, so incredibly special. And they will be missed forevermore.

    That is, until Max finds them, and starts humping their back legs. Douche. <3

  2. Love, love, love this post! I'm so sorry for your loss. Animals, especially dogs are some of the most amazing creatures on this earth. I sometimes get so frustrated w my giant 150 great Danes but then I remind myself how amazing it is to have another living creature get THAT excited when you walk through a door or even onto a room....and oh my goodness what if I say their names or throw the ball!!! Its pretty inspiring to be that important to someone.