6 Life lessons I learned from my old dog

Elli H Radinger, author of The Wisdom of Old Dogs, talks us through the lessons she learned from her ageing canine companion. 

Discover what really matters

A sweet old dog named Holly
Image via Colin Murray

I gave up working as a freelance wolf researcher in Yellowstone National Park to stay with my old dog until she dies. My priorities have changed. The time I spend with my dog now has become the most intense time of my life so far.

As dog owners, we get a sudden fright when we realise that our pet is getting old. How much time do we have left? We don’t know when the end is coming. What we can do, though, is live and love to the full. And make every moment with our pets the most precious moment of our lives. Because that is all that matters…

 

You don’t have to be perfect

pippa and cleo, two old dogs
Image via Rebekkah Callaghan

We humans sacrifice precious time and a great deal of money altering our appearance in our constant search for self-improvement and perfection. Dogs don’t care about their appearance. They’re content with the gifts that nature gave them. This makes their lives simple and straightforward.

It’s important to recognise that what gives our lives meaning is not our accomplishments, our appearance, or our achievements, but the depth and truth of our relationships with the people and creatures around us.

 

Things aren’t important

old dogs

Compared to us, dogs are refreshingly frugal. They have very few needs and wants. When I’m with my dog Shira, I rediscover my sense of perspective. She reminds me of the important things in life, the things we can enjoy together.

When we get older, we’re probably readier to let go of items that aren’t important to us anymore, because we know we can’t take them with us when we die.

For Shira, happiness is simply having her tummy stroked, going for a walk, and getting a treat. She takes pleasure in the simplest things and lives to love and be loved.

 

Live in the present

petting an old dog

For dogs, every single day is important and exciting. They wait for us to come home, relish the opportunity to say hello to a visitor, and are thrilled when we pick up their lead, because it means walkies.

We can learn so much just by observing how they make the most of the simple pleasures in life. For Shira, every day is an adventure that is still to be revealed.

 

Accept what you can’t change

old dogs

Old dogs make us realise how precious the time is, that we spend with our loved ones. When our dogs grow old, we have to learn to deal with change, to accept the inevitable and to live consciously every moment. In order to live a fulfilled life, we must overcome the fear of losing someone.

Shira daily makes me aware of the finiteness of both our lives and makes me enjoy every moment.

 

Forgive as long as you live

an old dog with his head out the car window

Forgiveness is something we consider often enough, but actually going through with it can be very difficult. Anger and hatred are an emotional burden. They prevent us moving forward with our lives.

Ultimately, we only harm ourselves if we are incapable of forgiveness. Forgiveness puts the power back into our own hands. When we forgive, we can find peace and move on.

Dogs forgive us without a second thought. They’re the absolute masters of forgiveness. Nothing we do can make them leave us. We should learn from our canine friends and their big hearts.

 

The Wisdom of Old Dogs

The Wisdom of Old Dogs is out now, £14.99, published by Mirror Books

 

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