What a great dog can teach you

Family and Kids, Simplicity

Otis & I hiking in New Mexico

Editor’s Note: This is a much more personal post than usual.
Ten years ago I went to the airport and picked up Otis, a yellow Labrador we bought from a breeder in another state. I stood in the baggage claim area and was greeted by his cute face looking at me through the crate as they wheeled him off the plane and into our lives.
As with all labs, Otis was a chewer, as well as a sock and underwear thief. In fact, he enjoyed many of my family’s items normally reserved for wearing or using in some form other than dog toy. Socks, baby bibs (one we had to have surgically removed), hotwheel cars, underwear, and towels are just a few of the things he would eat. In the past two years he began to feast on our garden. Turns out, he loved cantaloupe. Ate every one that grew this summer.
It was also not uncommon for us to find a sock in the backyard from one of my kids, myself, or even from our neighbors or friends who were kind enough to watch him while we traveled for a weekend.
One morning last winter, my daughter informed me that Otis was throwing up in the backyard. I went out to find two of my tube socks. I then proceeded to go throughout the backyard and pick up all the other, smaller socks that he had eaten – and passed.
Grand total I found … 21.
Regardless of the hassle dogs, or any pet for that matter, can be, they are a big part of family life.
The best thing is the unconditional love they continually shower on you. You can be gone for 5 minutes or 5 days, and you’re greeted with a smile, an excited tail wag and in Otis’ case, a toy being brought to you in his mouth.
Over the weekend, Otis began yelping any time he stood up or laid down. A year ago he developed arthritis in his hips and now it appears it was also in his neck. Every time he moved he was in pain. We got him pain meds, then more pain meds, but it didn’t seem to help take it away.
So after he woke up in the middle of the night, screaming out for a couple of minutes in pain, we took him in and had him put down. This is one of those moments in life that simply suck.
I know he’s a dog, but he’s also a buddy, a comfort, a protector, a member of the family and a friend.
As I think about him, I hope I can treat others and approach life more like Otis did.
To be happy to see people. To be willing to sit and be near them. To enjoy mornings laying in the warmth of the sun. To run and swim and wrestle like there’s nothing else going on. To not hold a grudge that I may be left out some times by others. And to love recklessly – every chance I get.
I hope I can treat my family like him as well.
While I don’t want to take up his love of sock eating, I do want to be protective of those that I love. To let them know how I feel about them by being with them, and seeking them out when they return home. To be excited enough to be around others that I let my emotions show. I don’t have to wag my tail, but I should be willing to jump around, smile, laugh, and share with others.
Life is fleeting.
And thanks to the love and example of a great dog, he taught me a little more about how to make the most of it.