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Writing means different things to me. I'm a storyteller, a book editor, and a songwriter. For me, it's like breathing.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Monday Musings: Lessons I learned from my dogs

This article was printed in our local newspaper back in July. I decided to share it on my blog because I know there are a lot of pet owners out there.

Lessons I learned from my dogs

Besides loyalty and companionship, dogs have a lot more to offer us. If we take the time to watch and connect with them, we can learn some important lessons.

Having dogs helped me through a dark time when I didn’t know if I would be permanently disabled. Crippled by severe pain, it was easy to give in and stay in a pain-medication fog, but my dogs depended on me to care for them while my husband was at work. So, I forced myself to get up and fight to get better.

My recovery had a lot to do with lessons I learned from my dogs. The first one is perseverance. Animals don’t allow an illness or injury to stop them from enjoying life. One of my dogs hurt her leg and managed just fine by hopping around on three, even chasing rabbits, until her leg healed. In the animal world, only the strong survive and unfortunately, this is also a harsh truth in the human one, a frightening reality I came close to experiencing.

Another important lesson is living in the moment. Dogs know how to relax in the sun and watch birds or sniff the different scents in the air. This reminds me to stop and enjoy a sunset or take in the wildlife in my backyard, to put my troubles aside. I’ve also learned the importance of exercise and play to keep physically and mentally fit. Dogs love to play. I have a nightly ritual with my Chihuahua. We play a game where I try to take his toy (a plush chicken or banana) away from him, if I can. He’s very fast. I come away from this refreshed and ready to work on writing or editing. This also helped me heal because exercise and physical therapy was very important to my recovery and for the regular management of my chronic condition.

My dogs have also taught me the importance of taking breaks, letting me know when it is time to eat or go outside—and always at the same time each day. This routine keeps me from sitting too long at the computer and worsening my back pain. After a break, I return to work, my energy restored.

Dogs have remarkable intuitive abilities. They know when a storm is approaching, when someone is coming home, or whether they like someone or not. This has taught me to listen to my intuition, especially when it came to finding the right occupation and exercise schedule that suited my health issues. I kept trying to do things the way I had before my illness. Once I stopped fighting myself and listened to my gut feeling, everything fell in to place.

The unconditional love dogs offer us might be the most important lesson. They love you regardless of your problems, your physical appearance, or your imperfections. This lesson has helped me strengthen my human relationships.

The lessons I learned from my dogs improved my life in ways I never realized until I opened my eyes and took notice, and I can’t imagine living without at least one dog by my side.

Kelley Heckart, Historical fantasy romance author

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