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Five Life Lessons My Dog Has Taught Me

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Tobey and JimMy wife and I rescued a wonderful seven and a half year old beagle named Tobey a few months ago. In that time, this little guy has really grown on me. He sleeps while I work, he follows me on walks, and has a pretty cushy life that I’m greatly envious of. However, he’s taught me a lot about life in general.

People have often asked us, why did we rescue an older dog? That’s a lesson in and of itself and one that I won’t even count as the five I’ll share! We didn’t intend to rescue a seven year old dog, we simply sought out a dog we could love and lead and found it in Tobey. He just happened to be seven. We know we could’ve rescued a younger dog but we met the little Tobester, we got along with him, and he joined our family. Every dog, like every person, needs love and we don’t discriminate based on age. :)

Push the limits

Dogs are like children, they only know the limits that you tell them and they are constantly testing them. When someone gives you an inch, take a mile. Tobey knows he shouldn’t be climbing on tables and peeking over counter-tops, but he does it anyway when he thinks we’re not looking. Why? He’s testing us. He’s finding the limits and finding how hard those limits are.

You should be testing the world. Don’t set limits for yourself, let the world tell you when you’ve gone too far. You might get in trouble sometimes, much like Tobey does, but the world knows better than you do about what your limits should be. Don’t let your brain limit your potential.

Best things in life are free

Tobey likes a handful of things in this world and most of them are absolutely free. He enjoys walks and he enjoys attention from me and my wife. To us, they’re free. To him, they cost “sits,” “stays,” “downs,” and “roll-overs,” but they don’t cost him anything tangible. Tobey loves walking around the neighborhood and smelling the wonderful smells. We have fox, deer, rabbits, squirrels, groundhogs, cats, and other dogs. Little doggy dude loves to smell and track them all… and those smells, all free!

For him, the best things in life require only obedience and that’s something he’s willing to pay. For people, it works the same way. For me, spending time with friends and family are give my life color and feeling. Building relationships doesn’t have to cost a penny, just time.

Take care of yourself

Tobey is a beagle so we have to routinely wash out his ears, as they are prone to ear infections (those floppy ears are great for catching water and capturing moisture). By washing out his ears twice a week, we can avoid painful ear infections and relatively expensive antibiotics and other remedies. Preventative care is much cheaper than prescriptive care, something our health insurance industry should take close note of!

Tobey is also seven and a half, which translated into human years puts him a couple years away from collecting a Social Security check (he’ll probably be the only one in our family to ever get that honor!). So, among other things, we must take great care in monitoring his weight and his general health because he’s not a young pup anymore. An extra pound for him, at 33 lb., is 3%! (6 lb. for a 200 lb. person!)

Show appreciation

Whenever one of us gets home, Tobey goes absolutely nuts. He starts barking in a very distinct way, his tail is wagging like crazy, and he’s running around in circles. He’s happy to see us and he wants you to know it!

Sometimes it’s important for us to do the same, to show appreciation on a more regular basis. Whether it’s writing a thoughtful note to a friend for being a friend or just saying thank you to someone who held the door open for you, a smile and a show of appreciation can brighten someone’s day. If you don’t do this, give it a try!

Be there for those you care for

I know that if everything goes into the crapper one day, my family will always be by my side – including the little critter Tobey. If I don’t feel well, he won’t shun me, he’ll still sit by me and make sure I’m OK (unfortunately he can’t make chicken soup, but my lovely wife can!). If I’m feeling kind of bored during the day, he’ll fetch his Kong toy all afternoon to keep me entertained.

Be that person for your friends and family. Be the person who will always be there, whether they’re in trouble or just need someone to talk to, and they will be there for you if you’re ever in a jam.

I only picked five lessons out of the many this little guy has taught me in such a short time, what lessons have you learned from your pets?

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20 Responses to “Five Life Lessons My Dog Has Taught Me”

  1. Congratulations on your new friend. Hope Tobey will be giving you many years of joy. Good on you for rescuing him. My first dog was rescued, also a beagle. I lived with him (Ha Ha) and loved him until he passed on at nearly 17 1/2 years old. I miss him everyday. What things did he teach me? Too numerous to list, but he was non judgemental, didn’t care if the wardrobe and hair were not up to par. Live in the moment and love completely… There’s currently a 7 1/2 year old adopted dog lying on the floor beside me. I rescued her in January of this year.

  2. Wonderfully said. I rescued a year old Rottweiler mix in 2002. He actually chose me and I’m so glad he did, he has been such a joy. He rescued me as much as I rescued him. The unconditional love I think is the biggest lesson.

  3. Suzanne says:

    We have a 12 year old Golden Retriever and a 15 year old Lhasa Apso – the unconditional love from them is unbelieveable! The patience with the grandkids, the boisterous “Welcome Homes”!
    We have been blessed to have such long and healthy lives for them and continue to enjoy every moment! We know they will not be with us forever.

  4. ManVsDebt says:

    Aaaaaaaaah, that picture is so sweet!

    That’s a good dog… yes you are a good dog…

    Seriously, though this was an excellent post. I especially liked the part about pushing your limits. I’ve learned a lot from first owning a dog and then my world has been turned upside down by my 13 month old. Talk about pushing limits! I hear it only gets more intense the older they get!

    Good work, jim!

    • Jim says:

      It will get more intense but you need to lead and educate them on the rules. :) As much as I like to push limits, I still listen to the police.

  5. Kevin says:

    First timer here (so be gentle!).

    We’ve always adopted mutts from the local animal shelters. Unlike our kids, our dogs have never tried to break free as they got older. There’s something reassuring about that. We’re already planning to take on two dogs in a few years when our kids do finally make it over the wall.

    Everything in our world tells us to prepare for the future–retirement, an education for our kids, that trade up house we want to buy–there’s always a plan. While that thinking has a place, it can easily make us forget to just live! How much less stress we would have, then maybe we could accomplish some truly great things with our lives.

    By nature, animals live in the moment. No concerns about what will happen in the next decade, next year or even tomorrow. We probably can’t ever be that serene, but it’d be great if we could blend a bit of their live-for-the moment with our need to have a plan.

    Jim–outstanding perspective on how some of the greatest life’s lessons come from unexpected directions. I’ll be watching my dog more closely from now on ;-)

  6. David says:

    Congrats and thank you for adopting an older animal!

    I have three rescued dogs that were all adults when I got them, and I couldn’t be happier with them.

  7. JJ says:

    The force is with you Jim! I adopted a 10 yr old Dachshund mix. He was with me until he was 18 yrs old. What a blessing. Thanks for writing this column.

  8. Tammy says:

    We rescued a 2 year old Rhodesian Ridgeback from the ASPCA. He is such a joy and such a PAIN (LOL) He loves to chase anything and track anything. We truly love him and his ill manners and dirty mouth from catching ball. He is learning to be social and charming- he was abused and has the scars to prove it. So while he is challenging he is still very precious to us!
    Good luck with Tobey

    I found you via Bargain Babe!

  9. Yana says:

    I enjoyed reading this, and good for you for adopting Tobey. I rescued MaggieMae, who will be 14 this month, from the local animal shelter when she was around 7 months old. She’s been one of the best values ever! I even buy her Fresh Pet Select dog food as a special daily treat, she is just THAT good ;) She is loving and loyal, and always by our side when we especially need her. The fact that she has been healthy from the start has been a great bonus. We also live in a neighborhood with lots of kids and other animals, one of the newest of which is a tiny chihuahua that my neighbors got when it was only 6 weeks old. Maggie had never seen a dog that small, but the neighbor brought it out when we were outside, and it ran up to us. Maggie was interested and sniffed her, but I’m just very happy that my dog is always good to children and other dogs. She only barks and gets upset if the other dog is bigger than she is. She weighs around 35 pounds, which I think is a perfect size for a canine companion.

  10. Bekki says:

    My boyfriend and I have rescued two orange tabby cats over the past two years, and, to be honest, I can’t imagine my life without these two little guys. When life gets a little too intense for one reason or another, all it takes is a few minutes with one of them snuggled up in my lap to remind me to enjoy the simple things and treasure the moments that I take for granted. Enjoy Tobey!

  11. Gretchen says:

    In addition to being a dog rescue fosterer, I adopted a 10 year old retired seeing eye dog about two years ago. The one thing that I would add to your list, which has been taught to me by all of the dogs that I have had a part in rescuing is: It’s never too late for things to change for the better.

  12. I loved the last one the most. We should always be sensitive to those around us. I struggle with this personally because I get so goal oriented that I sometimes forget those around me. Luckily I have a wife who helps me focus on the things that matter most: Family and friends.

  13. lostAnnfound says:

    We have an almost 2 year old Corgi/Beagle that we adopted from a rescue group when he was four months old. He is a cuddler, wants to be on your lap or lying next to you on the bed, just to be near you. We do enjoy watching him in the yard. We’ll toss the ball for him & he will come back with it, but not give it to you. He’s got his butt up in the air, tail wagging so hard it looks like his long, low body is bending in half! Then he’ll take off like he was let go from a slingshot! He LOVES to run! It’s so fun to watch him & it makes us smile. Then he decides it’s time to get into our strawberries & start eating; get out of there you silly dog! I guess he shows us to have fun & remember to laugh and enjoy life.

  14. Nice post!

    Very interesting perspective on the lessons learned.

    Just goes to show you that you can learn things in the most unusual and unexpected ways.

  15. Wendy says:

    It’s great to hear that you adopted a companion! I love and miss my Maltese, which I left to my mother when I moved away. He is going on 15 people years now (!) and he taught me that some of the best company doesn’t require you to have money. A dog can be a loving, loyal companion who won’t judge you for not wearing designer clothes or driving a beat up car.
    Also, some of the best entertainment doesn’t have to cost a bundle. Walks outdoors, sightseeing at local festivals, going for a drive, playing with the dog are all free or within your budget!

  16. Augiebball says:

    Excellent post. My wife and I have rescued two older dogs in the past few years and I don’t know what I would do without either one of them. They enhance my life to such a degree that at times I wonder how I managed before they arrived. Many people are afraid of adopting older dogs because they likely won’t be around as long as a puppy so it’s tough to get attached and then say goodbye, but older dogs seem to appreciate everything just a little bit more. They’ve been around the block and know what it’s like to be in the kennel and therefore love you that much more. Thanks again for the post and thank-you for having the courage to adopt an older dog.

  17. mikecancook says:

    Tobey is fantabulous! Thanks for reminding us about the priceless value of things we take for granted.

  18. Patrick says:

    Great Post Jim. Dogs are great and all of those lessons are great to live by. The biggest point you make is that family and friends are always there for you. I totally agree with you. Money only takes you so far, but family makes life much more meaningful.

  19. charlie says:

    For the past 7 + years I have been educated by a “Westie” named Hooch.
    There are too many lessons to recount here, but the main theme is that we are connected and as I observe Hooch and apply these lessons to my personal and my business life. I u=have a web site lessonsfrommydog.com where I share these learnings.


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