7 Life Lessons from a Yellow Lab
My face was stained with tears. I could feel the salt begin to crystallize against my skin. After having a dog for nearly 15 years, they truly become a part of the family. A big, furry, yellow brother by the name of Gabe. My second brother I’ve had in this lifetime. The other was another yellow lab who was with me until I was about 11 years old. I’ve always been a dog lover and having to say goodbye to your animal is not something you can plan. It’s interesting to think about having to make that choice. Do you decide to put them down easy or continue to let them suffer? How long do you really wait? Either way, it doesn’t make losing them any simpler.
Over the years, these dogs have taught me a number of things about life. I learned at a young age that a dog is not a horse. Stash, the first pal taught me this at the age of seven after attempting to get on his back. I learned that putting three balls in your mouth is probably not a good idea. Maybe sticking to one or two is a better option. I learned this…well, all jokes aside, here are seven valuable lessons only these big ol’ labs could really teach a kid.
1. Share the love
Was it the ice cream or us? Gabe’s favorite time for kissing was right after I would get home from my family’s Dairy Queen. My skin would be stained with ice cream from blending the Blizzards. Gabe would be right by my side with kisses galore even after scolding him seven hours prior for eating my lunch. He taught me that no matter what happened, it’s always important to make peace and spread love.
2. Be present
You’d have to spell out the word “walk” because the second Gabe heard it, his tail wagged frivolously. He didn’t understand the concept of waiting until tomorrow. “Walk” meant now and choosing to do something else instead only dug you into a deeper hole. He enjoyed each moment as if that was all he had. You should have seen how many dog treats he chomped down before his last breath.
3. Pay attention to body language
Even though they can’t tell you exactly how they feel, you can feel it. They wag their tail when praised, turn their nose down when reprimanded, and cuddle up next to you if you are sad. The dog’s ability to pick up on energetic cues is impeccable. These dogs actually showed me that actions speak louder than words.
4. Know what you want and go after it
A common sight on Henley Street was one of the five of us shouting “Gabe” in an utter panic because he just busted out of the door for the third time that day. He just HAD to get outside right at that moment. We’d even try to squeeze him between our legs and the door. Somehow, he still shimmied his way through. He knew at that moment that outdoor space was his need and he wasn’t afraid to make it happen.
5. Have patience
This big lab knew that at some point there would be an open moment to jump on that table and hound 50 of the 300 Christmas cookies that had just been made. He would have had no chance if he went after that task while I was still in the kitchen. So he patiently waited for his moment to pounce. Patience is definitely not one of my strongest suits. However, all good things take time and clearly Gabe knew that and wanted us to know it too.
6. Enjoy time with loved ones
“You just have to be right there, don’t you?” my mom would always say to Gabe at the dinner table. He’d sneak in right beneath our feet, begging for a bite. Honestly, sometimes my sisters and I would slip him our pork chops or green beans. Sorry Mom and Dad. Gabe knew that shared meals were a way to bring everyone together and he couldn’t miss out on that opportunity.
7. Be Playful
I don’t know what made socks look so delicious, but Gabe could not get enough of them. I think it was more about the keep-away game he liked to play than how the socks landed on his palate. Eventually, I learned that coaxing him with a full body scratch, deemed the “car wash,” would entice him more than chasing him around the table attempting to snatch the sock back. It was in that moment that I realized he just liked to have a little fun.
These good souls will always have a special place in my heart. No matter the size, age or way they go, losing a pet is never easy. Taking a moment to realize what they have taught you and being grateful for the time you had is all you can do. My mom couldn’t have said it better; “to those of you who have been down this road as well, I send you my love.”
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