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When Gavin had surgery number three to remove two mast cell tumors and a lymph node, his dog sitter (who he adored) sent me the sweetest message wishing him well, ending with, “he’s so strong. You’ll both get through this.”

And, I remember thinking of all Gavin’s endearing qualities. My perfect boy is sweet, wants to please, and makes me laugh countless times a day, but if I cough in another room while he’s eating, he goes on a hunger strike. I never considered him brave.

Gavin’s still healing from his surgery, and I’ve been charged with getting him to eat at least 29 pills/tablets/capsules daily to improve his appetite and nausea and keep him as happy and confident as possible. I was pretty darn proud of myself for my strategy to get him to eat all his medication and supplements willingly. But, I now know he helped devise my pill-eating plan. 

I’d sit on the floor with Gavin, tell him what a good boy he is while I rubbed his neck or inside his ear then I’d say to him, “if you eat your herbies, we’ll go outside” Gavin loves our quiet, private patio as much as I do. He’d pause then look at me with an I-don’t-want-to-but-I-will face and gobble up each pill hidden in the concoction-of-the day while I cheered him on and told him, “you’re the best dog.”

I’m humbled thinking about my big baby of a dog who now loves being outside and be-bops on his walks like he doesn’t have a care in the world. There was a time when he slept, under the covers, until noon and bit trees because he was stressed or needed me to toss treats every step to help him relax and keep moving. 

Maybe Gavin’s braver and stronger than I thought. And, maybe, like many things in life, there’s a lot our dogs can teach us about being human.

When we make mistakes, can we be brave and say “I’m sorry” and then practice even more courage by forgiving rather than berating ourselves? Can we dare to love, with wild abandon, without expecting reciprocity? Can we follow our hearts when our minds tell us what feels right, good, and soul-filling doesn’t make sense?

I firmly believe that, in my lifetime, we’ll never understand what we know in our hearts and see every day–our dogs are profoundly emotional and intelligent. And, I learn much more from Gavin about living and loving than anything I’ve ever taught him.

May your day and weekend be filled with delightful lessons that only the most incredible beings, our dogs, can teach us. 

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