When you don’t have children, the world is different. My dog Bear became my furry child in 1999, my first dog ever. You see, growing up we were a “cat family”, and then I had cats of my own when I was in college and grad school.
But in 1999, I had gotten a “real job” at a hospital, and decided that I was not going to wait for a man or marriage, and purchased a house all by myself. And this led me to be willing and able to get my first dog too. Bear was from the “foster to adopt” program and I adopted him when he was 6 months old. He was already named Bear and so we kept that name.
We spent the last 13 years together and he just went home to doggy heaven on April 3rd at 13.5 years of age. I miss him so very much!! It has been a difficult year of transition as I went through a divorce last summer and now losing my little “child” has really rocked my world. For the last week I have had many moments of intense grief where I truly felt as if I had lost my entire family…and in fact, that is my truth. So for me to heal, it is important to write. I want you to know Bear from my perspective and to hear the 13 things that he taught me during our 13 years together.
1. Don’t bark if you don’t need to. Bear was such a quiet dog. I really only think I heard him bark a few times each year. He would bark if a stranger came to the door unexpectedly, but really not much else got him talking. From this, I have learned that there is no need to “BARK” at people or get mean just to get attention.
2. Sleep is fun. As we all know, dogs love to sleep and Bear was no different. But it is an important lesson to learn in the fact that we all need time to turn OFF and close our eyes. We need time to rest, rejuvenate and recover. This has never been more evident to me than it is at this moment. This year has been full of sleepless nights and hours of insomnia. I am ready to get some sleep.
3. Eat what you love. Bear ate the strangest things including peas, chocolate, shoes, socks, and even some of my lipsticks when I first got him. Most recently it had been socks, the long trouser socks. Let me tell you, when they come back up, it is not pretty….in fact, I thought he had eaten a snake. NOPE. Trouser sock. I think he managed to eat about 7 or 8 of them this last year. YUMMY! I have learned to eat what I love to…and often that means something non-traditional but that works for me. See the carrot video HERE!
4. Moving is an adventure. Bear moved a lot with my ex-husband and me. We started in Spokane, WA, then to San Antonio, TX, then to our current location Wichita Falls, TX. In all of those locations, he lived in 9 different homes as we moved, rented, etc. Bear was totally happy in every place, excited as we drove down the road, ready to “settle in” once we got there. During one of our last moves, Bear was sick of watching us pack the UHaul and I think he was a tad bit worried that we might leave him behind. So he finally got into the Uhaul and sat down.
5. Walking is exciting. Bear sure did love his walks with his dad Robert each night. They would go around the neighborhood and have adventures, with new smells and new goodies to be found. We all need to keep moving, keep walking, and keep taking good care of our bodies, just like a dog.
6. Don’t play games if you don’t enjoy them. Bear had no idea how to fetch or play catch….and he really seemed to feel no need to learn. I tried to teach him or “play” with him many times over the years. Nope. He was just not “into it” at all. So I let him off the hook. No need to play those silly games anyway.
7. Follow those you love. He followed me back and forth throughout the house all day long. To the kitchen and back to the office. To the bedroom and back to the office. Here and there. And he was always close by when I was doing my coaching calls, leading webinars, teaching a group. Be willing to follow the people you love and learn from them.
8. Be true to yourself. Be who you are. Bear was just himself. He did want he wanted, when he wanted. He was authentic and flawed, and fabulous.
9. Find a comfy spot and rest. Bear was a constant companion to me as I moved my office back home and set up shop. I got him a giant old comforter that was not being used and had it folded up into a mock bed for him and he just loved that spot. I am learning from him to find my own “comfy spots” and let them be a great place to rest.
10. Spend time with your friends. Bear had a friend named Carson who he had the joy of staying overnight with, when we were out of town. He loved Carson and they got along great, having similar temperaments. It is crucial and non-negotiable for me to spend time with my friends. I must do it.
11. Sit on your front porch. In his last year with me, I had moved to a house that has a cute front porch. We enjoyed sitting out there together watching the birds, cats, people, and trees. In honor of Bear, I am committed to doing this more often. Sometimes we just need to sit, not in front of the TV or the computer. But in our front yard, or back yard.
12. Ask for what you need. Bear knew how to ask for treats, or to go outside, or whatever it was that he was wanting from me. This is a crucial lesson that I am. That I cannot assume you know what I need, or that you can read my mind. Nor should you have to guess what I am thinking or feeling.
13. Love unconditionally. He looked like a puppy even in his last years…in fact, so much so that no one ever believed that he was 13, they always thought he was a puppy. He was always waiting for me to come home. He loved me with no agenda, letting me cry when I needed to, or talk to him. Or just sit in silence. He was my constant companion for 13 years. I love him and miss him every day.
So as I let go of my furry child and know that he is waiting for me at the Rainbow Bridge, I am sad, and yet comforted. He had a wonderful life. We had more years than many are given that have a furry child. He will always be with me in my heart.
My life was forever changed by this little dog named Bear, my first dog.
[graybox]Diane Cunningham is the Founder and President of the National Association of Christian Women Entrepreneurs. She is a “business therapist”, plane crash survivor, author, consultant, speaker, marathon runner, and fun friend.
Find out more about NACWE and why 165 women joined in the first year at www.NACWE.org. Connect with Diane at www.facebook.com/DianeCunningham for fun updates, silly videos, and lively conversation.[/graybox]