From Chicken Soup for the Soul: What I Learned from the Dog


What have I learned from my dog?


I live my life side by side with my pets—they are an integral part of everything that I do—and yet after all these years (animal or human), I still learn from them every day. Dogs can be the best teachers and the best teachers make learning painless and fun, heartwarming and always rewarding. That’s what my dog does. I don’t remember my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Googleman, making learning that fun.

I love my dog, and I love yours too. I’ve spent my whole career trying to keep all of them safe and happy. A reward for all the love they’ve given us. I am so excited that Chicken Soup for the Soul has put together another one of their fabulous books for dog lovers, and this one is on such a special topic, with 101 true tales offering insights about life, love, and the fundamental wisdom we can learn from our dogs. It’s a real-life, dog-lovers Holy Grail! This book makes me smile, laugh out loud, cry, and pick up the phone to share my favorite stories. Lucky likes the extra hugs she is getting too and is trying to get me to help her pen our very own.

What do we learn from our dogs? Perhaps the most important thing is to enjoy life and take each day as it comes. Victorian novelist Samuel Butler said, “All of the animals except man know that the principal business of life is to enjoy it.” Although times have changed since the Victorian era, humans are still slowing figuring this out.

That’s what this book is for. You will read about Elizabeth Cutting, who reluctantly took over the care of her grandmother’s Golden Retriever. She had no idea that the dog would change her life by teaching her about integrating her “inner dog.” But over the years, through the ups and downs of her life, that priceless dog taught her through example, showing her how to approach every day with “gusto,” “live in the moment,” “forget the bad, remember the good,” and most important, “forgive mistakes—every one of them, every time.”

Our dogs help us put things in perspective and give us a reason to keep going. Their love is unconditional for us. Do dogs ever have a “bad day?” In Sean Sellers’ story, he details his experience after personally witnessing the events of September 11th, and says, “I might have gone out of my mind if it wasn’t for that dog... she has taught me to concentrate on the rhythm of my heart and to remove the wishing, the wondering, and the worrying from my head.”

Carla Andrews-O’Hara’s dog helped her live through chemo. In the depths of her sickness, Chaco was “a constant reminder of the wonders of life... Chaco is blessed with the knowledge that the world is magic. His heart overflows with unconditional love. I’d reject him and he kept coming back—determined to help me fight. It’s almost as though he’d look at me and say, ‘Get up. Don’t give in. Let’s go for a walk.’”

Stacy Murphy has a powerful story in this book about overcoming her alcoholism after adopting the “runt” of a purebred Labrador Retriever litter. Ruby was destined for the pound, but Stacy took her home and writes that “with Ruby by my side, taking those first steps towards a fulfilling life was no longer such a daunting prospect... she taught me to love myself. To Ruby, I was always beautiful and fun, always smart and strong. Her love was unwavering even when I didn’t feel deserving of it... In my darkest of days, I hung on for no other reason than for the love of Ruby.”

That brings me to the subject of pounds and adoption. You all know how passionate I am about animal rescue. I rescued my Maltese, sidekick, lap-dog, partner-in-crime, Lucky, and my Russian Blue, Pasha, from pounds. I proudly support many animal rescue organizations and am happy to report that the tragedy of abandoned dogs and cats is steadily being addressed. Chicken Soup for the Soul shares in this passion, and this book is filled with stories of rescued dogs... and rescued people!

Belle, a long-hair Chihuahua born with a curved spine, was destined for euthanasia at the pound when Al Seradell rescued her. Belle had clearly been abused, but despite her fear she turned right around and rescued Al! He writes that “a slew of personal and career disappointments had left me depressed and very distrustful” and points out “Who says a therapist has to be human? Inspired by Belle’s renewed faith, I have abandoned my own reticence and no longer wait until someone shows me a bit of kindness. I now feel confident that I can trust again. Because of Belle, I am back in the game, ready to take risks and enjoy life to its fullest.”

The lessons learned in this book range in size and scope, just like the dogs. Do you feel you need to look perfect all the time? “Pooper scooping” is the great leveler, as Nancy Berk points out when she says, “Ever since the dogs came into my life, my flawed self has been on display for the world, or at least the neighborhood to see. I’ve been half dressed, overdressed and badly dressed, all for the sake of two sets of big sad eyes... I like to think that God made dogs so that we could escape our self-absorbed lives.” I couldn’t agree with Berk more. Ever since rescuing Lucky, I ditched all my expensive bags for the only one that could hold Lucky.

I hope you will enjoy this book as much as I have. The Chicken Soup for the Soul team is so dedicated to our dogs and their wellbeing, and it is a pleasure and a privilege to introduce this book to you. As Amy Newmark, Chicken Soup for the Soul publisher and co-author, says “Our dogs teach us so much about how to live our lives—sometimes we just have to stop and listen.”

So live large, love your dog, love yourself, and learn from each other, whether four paws or two.

~Wendy Diamond

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