The loving wisdom of canines

I want to be more like my dog.

Years ago I opened a birthday gift from my sweet husband, and inside the little green and pink box I found a dog collar and a picture of a little miniature schnauzer with her curious head cocked to one side.  She was a 4 year old rescue from Tennessee named Chloe Amelia and I immediately fell in love.

We met up with other adopting families around midnight in the parking lot of a gas station…sounds suspicious I know…and when the rescue van arrived full of little pooches we were as excited and nervous as newborn parents at the hospital.  What would she be like? Would she like us? Trust us? Rescues have usually been hurt or abandoned, and often come with many issues…could we handle her potential problems?

When the driver began to unload the dogs I held my breath.  Out came Chloe in the little thundershirt her kind foster mom had sent with her.  My fears instantly vanished as she ran right up to me, jumped up on my knee and began licking me like she had always known me.  She did the same to my husband. She didn’t hesitate a second to get in the car with us and was so excited the whole ride home, jumping around on my lap, watching the traffic and then growing in her excitement as we pulled into our neighborhood, as if she sensed she was coming home. 

Chloe jumped into bed with us that night and lived curled up beside us from that day on.  She wholeheartedly loved us from the moment she first sniffed us. She was all in and over the moon excited to be included in anything we were doing.

I was told by family members how she would howl when I would leave the house, and she would sit on the top of the sofa looking out the window, waiting for my return.  I had never had a dog so devoted. She would wait outside the bathroom for me, shadow me around the house and sit at my feet while I cooked or worked. And it wasn’t just me.

She would greet family members with the enthusiasm normally reserved for someone who hasn’t been seen for months – EVERYTIME we came home.  Running and jumping and whining and charging around the room in an ecstatic frenzy, as if seeing us walk in the door was the best thing in her entire universe. I was exhausted just watching it. Her world revolved around her humans and she was completely and unabashedly devoted to us with every atom in her body.

Anything we did together excited her.  Sitting on the sofa together? Yay I love it!  Bedtime? It’s my favorite! Ride? I’m in! Walk?  Did you say WALK? She would absolutely freak out at that word.  

Wait – did you say WALK?

Chloe became our enthusiastic and tireless camping and hiking companion.  Whether is was climbing up boulders in Arcadia Maine or hiking portions of the Appalachian trail in the pouring rain, she was all in and willed her little legs everywhere our big legs would take us.  Everyday. Anything that had to do with us was her favorite.

From those years my mild mannered husband and I gleaned some Chloe wisdom:

Live unafraid

Don’t apologize for your crazy (we all have it!)

Be 100% in not lukewarm, not tentative, but full on IN

Love with your whole being

Remain loyal no matter what

Enjoy every little aspect of life – there is excitement everywhere

Keep going – you may have shorter legs than some, but being part of the pack means you have to endure and persevere

Don’t dwell in the past

Both my husband and I had come from very unhealthy first marriages and we were blending our boys into a second family and it was honestly exhausting.  We each had our fears, our past hurts, our triggers, our doubts…

Chloe was like a breath of certainty, pulling us all together into her favorite group of people and showing us how to get over abandonment, past rejection and abuse by living in the present.

Fully engaged and bought in to those you are now with.

Recklessly and enthusiastically chasing life.

Little Chloe also taught us another lesson, an unpleasant truth we like to forget:  life is short.

We lost Chloe unexpectedly and quickly to a nasty bacteria.  Within 4 days her little body had shut down. We tried everything the vet could think of but it was just too late.  It broke our hearts.  But we loved each other to the very end, and for that reason there were no regrets. She had spent all the life she had been given in a beautiful way.

Still, life is too short.

Tomorrow, next week, next month – none of it is a guarantee.  So who cares what others think? Don’t get hung up on your issues or shortcomings. Love deeply, play, laugh and show your crazy, commit to sucking out all of the juice out of life.  Be unapologetically YOU.

She was a little dog with the heart of a giant.

After she crossed that rainbow bridge we remained dogless for a long time, and instead began to foster rescues and help them into their forever homes.  And I learned quite a lot from those dogs as well. But those stories are for another day.

Suffice it to say that God can teach us so much and help us to grow and heal by bringing the most unexpected personalities into our world.  Even – even especially – furry ones.  

I want to live more like my “Chloclo”  Even without the master degrees and ted talks, she had a lot more figured out than the rest of us. 

Chloe – thank you for blessing our lives with your exuberant spirit. You made our lived better just by being in it, and the paw prints you left on our hearts will never fade.

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