Why Can’t Dogs Live Forever?

Lessons from my dog

Today I got a call from my ex-husband who told me that our dog had died. It was unexpected, it was quick and it was something he felt shouldn’t be told through a text. I appreciated that, told him as much as I swallowed back my tears. Hanging up, they fought their way out and I spent some time wallowing in my grief. Although my dog, Gilbert, was no longer living with me, that didn’t make him any less of my dog. He was the first pet I owned as an adult and I am heartbroken. There really are no words that I can write to you all to explain how much pain this loss causes.

So, instead of trying to articulate my pain, instead, I think we will focus on what Gilbert had brought to my life.

Gilbert was a 10-pound beast filled with an endless amount of energy, love and neediness that made up his personality. Although seven years old at this point, he had the same amount of spunk and vitality that he had from day one. The joy he felt for me, and my ex-husband, started from his perch on the couch when he sees us drive up the lane, festering and rising in intensity by the time we walk in the door and he meets us in the kitchen. He was so excited his entire body is shaking and he zooms around the kitchen and dining room as we give him some love. He is always like this. It doesn’t matter how long we were gone; it could be five minutes, five hours or five days and that little bundle of force is radiating pure joy. A joy that is strictly developed by our very presence.

And it is fascinating to me. It is fascinating that he loved us just for being present. He takes our bad moods and our good moods in stride and will saunter over to plop himself on our lap and lick our face regardless of what attitude we are giving off that day. There were no conditions. No expectations. No requirements in order for him to show his affection and love. He is the essence of what we all strive and wish we could be.

He did not care how my day went, good or bad, and he would listen to me talk about it without judgement.

He did not care how greasy my hair is, or that I have been wearing pajama for two days straight.

He didn’t care how pretty I am or how much I weigh.

He did not care what I do for work or how much money I make. What car I drive or the size of my house.

He did not hesitate in showing me love even if I get mad at him or he was in trouble earlier that day.

He did not care.

He did not care about anything to do with me unless it is that I feed him, pet him and give him even a semblance of the love he gives in return.

And that is the best.

It the best thing ever to come home for a long hard day at work and feel loved, and cuddled and unjudged. To have another thing, in this case a dog, be perfectly content with me being me. And like everyone who has pets, this is not exclusive to Gilbert. There is a love that most pets have for their owners that are unmatched by anything else. And I am going to miss that.

I am going to miss all of the parts of Gilbert that brought joy to my life. That brought perspective, or compassion or support. I am going to miss having that little bundle of energy draw the attention of the people around me because he is just so damn cute. I am just straight up going to miss him.

But, I am also going to try and remember the lessons that he taught me. I think we all can learn a little from Gilbert.

  • Don’t take the limited time you have together for granted. It may pass by before you know it.
  • Love unconditionally and without judgement.
  • Don’t hold expectations for the people around you, but rather savor in their company and just enjoy their presence.
  • Listen. Pay Attention. Be affectionate.
  • Be genuinely happy when you see someone you care about, or even someone who is taking the time to say hello.
  • And sometimes, every once in awhile, snuggle in beside someone, quietly and just give some love.

“They motivate us to play, be affectionate, seek adventure, and be loyal.”

– Tom Hayden

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