Heartfelt Lessons from the Loss of Man’s Best Friend

It was May 2000. My girlfriend at the time convinced me my dog Bleu needed a companion because she looked lonely. I disagreed. “Bleu is fine,” I said. I was on the verge of launching a new business, and the last thing I needed was another dog.

It turns out that my girlfriend was pretty convincing. After a few conversations I agreed to consider a new dog. “I know where we can get one,” she eagerly stated as she jumped off the couch. Later that afternoon we loaded an 8-week-old puppy named Levi into the truck and headed home.

The name didn’t fit her so we changed it to Black (that’s right — Black and Bleu). Bleu now had the companion she needed, and two years later I got the companion I needed. You see, as luck would have it, I was pretty convincing myself. That girlfriend at the time became my wife!

Together we raised her for fifteen years. Although Bleu needed formal training, Black never made her way to charm school for dogs — she simply did everything Bleu did. I thought she would be a handful as I launched a new business, but she turned out to be a gift from above.

After fifteen years of enjoying the gift, Black died yesterday. She was a “little sister” to Bleu, and eventually a “big sister” to Bailey and Bacon. Perhaps most importantly she was a part of our family. Some people say it’s hard to lose a dog because they are like family. Real dog lovers understand they aren’t like family, they are family. Heather and I don’t have children, so our dogs are family.

We knew yesterday morning it was time. She slipped peacefully away with the help of one of the vets who has taken care of her most of her life. We were with her to the end — holding her until she took her last breath.

As I sit here today, I keep thinking of the irony that Heather and I rescued her that day fifteen years ago. We took her in and trained her. She needed us. All those years we were the teacher and she was the student. As I think about it, I realize that maybe we were the ones who were rescued. Perhaps we needed her even more than she needed us. I realize that perhaps God sent her to be the teacher and for us to be the students.

We’ve all read about the simple lessons we can learn from a dog’s life, but as I’ve spent time today thinking about the deeper life lessons we learned from her life, I realized she did in fact teach us a lot.

Get clarity of purpose

Several months after Black came into our life we founded our company Verbalocity. Like any new business we were trying to find our way. As we worked to determine our purpose, we realized we had the example of understanding purpose right under our feet. You see, Black always knew her purpose … to love and protect. She instinctively knew when to energetically shower her family with love, and when to quietly show that love by remaining silent, sitting quietly, and just being present during difficult times. And as for protection … there is no doubt in my mind she would have given her life to protect her family. She would lick your face if you were a friend, and rip your arm from your body if you threatened her family. To the moment she passed, she had clarity of purpose and it never changed. We search a lifetime to find our purpose. We could all learn from the lesson Black shared concerning clarity of purpose.

Live in the moment

As humans, we spend so much time thinking about the past and worrying about the future. Black never thought about any of that. She left the past in the past and never held a grudge. She forgave us quickly and loved us unconditionally. She taught us to forgive and forget quickly. As for the future, she was satisfied to take it moment by moment. Sometimes we forget that life is lived right now — in this very moment. It’s something she did by her very nature. She never cared what exotic place we went to speak. She just wanted us to be home. She never cared how much money we made when we were gone. She just wanted us to be home. She pouted when we packed our bags to leave on a trip, but was happy when we got home. In many ways, it’s like she knew her time was limited, and she was determined to live in the moment.

Enjoy the simple stuff

Black’s only responsibilities in life were to love and protect, so she was able to live a carefree life. Her limited responsibilities freed up a lot of time! Our human responsibilities will never allow us to live as simply as a dog, but we can certainly learn the lesson to enjoy the simple stuff. A ride in the car to the mailbox or a walk down the driveway was all it took to make her day. I wonder sometimes how enjoyable life would be if we could embrace each of those moments just as Black did every day.

Author Bruce Cameron wrote a book titled A Dog’s Purpose. In the book, he tells the story of a dog who finds himself reincarnated and decides there must be a purpose he must fulfill, and until he does he’ll continue to be reborn. If there is any truth to this heartfelt book, I know Black served her final assignment. I’m certain she fulfilled her purpose, and in the process, she made us better people for the lessons she taught.

Thank you, God, for loaning us this sweet baby. Rest in peace, Black!

Clint Swindall

© 2015 Clint Swindall — Clint is the president & CEO of Verbalocity, Inc., a personal development company with a focus on leadership enhancement. For information about how he can enhance employee engagement in your organization, please visit www.verbalocity.com, or contact him directly clint@verbalocity.com.

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