Today is the eleventh anniversary of the day my dog Princess passed away. While this event may not be as earth shattering to the world as the death of John F. Kennedy or Nancy Reagan, it still has significance, for it was a change in my life that made me stop, reflect, reassess, and rearrange priorities. This event also helped me find hope, not immediately, but in time. This hope in turn led me to opportunities to build character, which proved most helpful in surviving the storms of life.
While running and riding my bike tonight, I thought about the relationship Princess and I had. She entered my life as a puppy full of vigor, energy, curiosity, and mischief. At the time, I was 17, restless, and trying to define myself. We made an instant connection, forming a bond of friendship and understanding that made no words necessary. Princess learned how to deal with me no matter my mood, and I learned to accept her imperfections when it came to behavior.
In retrospect, Princess acted as a therapy dog for me, which helped me deal with a severe case of depression. Though Princess was not trained to be a therapy dog, she had a natural sense of loyalty and trust, as well as intuition when it came to right and wrong. Through our 14 years together, we learned much about life, ourselves, and our surroundings. We took countless walks, played ball, and watched many a sunrise and a sunset together.
Despite the years gone by since her passing, I still feel a connection to her and her spirit of adventure. Maybe this connection is my reluctance to let go, or some other force unknown to me. Regardless of the reason or the science behind it, this connection is important.
Connections and Comfort
As humans, we naturally need a sense of belonging or connection with others. From birth, we establish relationships with the people around us, be they relatives, friends, or others in our surroundings. As time passes, we see these connections grow and change. Sometimes the changes foster a deeper bond, but other times we end up getting hurt. When we are hurt, we seek solace in different ways. Some of us may become wary or introverted until the pain subsides. Others may seek immediate new connections to replace what was lost.
How we respond to others often depends upon our environment. If we have others around us to comfort, support, and provide positive interactions, we have an easier time accepting change and moving on with life. Conversely, if we are surrounded by negativity or unhealthy relationships, we may struggle more.
No matter our surroundings, we need to remember God is always with us and for us. He is there in the deep, dark valleys and the bright, sunny skies. All we need to do is let Him into our hearts, which may be easier said than done.
Princess was indeed a good friend to me at a time in my life when I had very few positive and healthy relationships. Though I did not realize it at the time, God was also very good to me, providing me with beautiful sunsets, cleansing rains, and lessons in nature.
Many of the people in our lives come and go. Sometimes we are lucky enough to find forever friends that stay with us despite the miles between us and life’s circumstances. It is in these friendships that we find a deep sense of belonging and strength for our journey.
In recalling many memories of Princess, I realize she allowed me to experience life fully, including the good, the bad, the ugly, the joyful, the sorrowful, and the unpredictable. She had a tiny frame for a German Shepherd, tipping the scales at 55 pounds sopping wet. However, her heart was bigger than life and full of love, which she made sure to convey through licking my hands and face.
I remember after a few years of walking her on a leash around the property, she showed me she was ready to walk without restrictions. That first walk without a leash tested my trust in her and her trust in me. It also marked a change in my views of life and how to overcome obstacles. Watching her walk freely showed me that over time, we can move beyond our restrictions in life. We may have to change our attitude, thought process, and methods in order to find success. We may also have to try more than once to succeed. In going through the challenges of making these changes and trying different things, we build character, faith, and hope.
Remembering the Journey
Days like today help me recognize how far I have come and how far I have to go to reach my destination. Through remembering and accepting what has come and gone, I have come to realize the blessings God has bestowed upon my life. Though the journey thus far has been rather windy and full of obstacles, it has also had its share of rewards.
Standing at Princess’ grave tonight, I saw the bleeding heart I planted in her memory starting to sprout. The shoots were very small and hardly noticeable, but nonetheless were there. Seeing these shoots reminded me of the coming warmer spring days and nights, which gave me hope for brighter tomorrows, just as Princess gave me hope all those years ago.
Life is a journey full of memories, relationships, and character building. As we traverse the miles of the journey we discover positive and negative circumstances. It is in going through many different circumstances that we really live and grow to our fullest potential.