3 Lessons about Simple Living: Advice from my Dog, Charley
I’m writing this with a little piece of my heart missing after saying goodbye to our beloved family dog, Charley, this past weekend.
Charley was part Golden Retriever, part we’re-not-sure what. He was, in essence, a mutt. But we didn’t care.
He had beautiful dark brown eyes rimmed in black that looked straight into your soul, a permanent grin on his face, and the softest fur you could imagine.
We adopted Charley from a rescue organization back in 2004 when he was 4 months old. They told us he had been found living outside on a West Virginia farm with several other dogs. He had never been inside a real home. We took him home, and he became part of our family.
After 13 years with us, his time came to an end, and my husband and I made the very difficult decision to put him down. We have a wooded area behind our home where we walked every day with him, and made that his final resting place. After leaving him in his happy place, we felt numb.
As we reminisce about the things that made Charley uniquely Charley, I couldn’t help but think about how lucky we were to have him, and how he taught us many life lessons.
He showed us the value of the simple things in life, which end up being the most important things.
Here are some lessons about simple living I learned from Charley.
The Importance of Acceptance
Charley loved us just as we were. Tired, hungry, or short-tempered, he didn’t judge. He didn’t mind if we had a bad day.
He overlooked all our faults and short comings, and treated us as if we were the best people on the planet despite our frequent mistakes. He accepted us without judgment.
Accepting others is one of the greatest gifts we can give to someone else. It frees us from negativity and guilt. When we stop judging others for their emotions and thoughts, we free ourselves to just love. And then people can love us back without fear.
The Importance of Presence
In Charley’s world, life was enjoyed to the fullest. Whether he was running through the woods, eating a bone, or enjoying a pet on the head, he was all in.
He wasn’t thinking about what he would do next. He was never too busy. He lived in the moment.
Think of the things we could enjoy every day if we stopped multi-tasking, stopped rushing to get things done, and simply lived in the present.
We could experience so much more freedom if we became a little more mindful as we go about our daily activities.
The Importance of Connection
Once our home had settled down every night, Charley would invariably come to me for his nightly head rub. He would nudge my hands with his nose or tap my arm with his paw to let me know he needed a good scratch.
Sometimes I would stop too soon, and he would nudge me again to tell me he wanted more. I would comply, of course, because who could turn down this cute face?
This became my favorite time of the day with him, and I will always remember the connection we had during these few seemingly insignificant moments every night.
What if we made a conscious effort to connect with our families and friends every day. What if, instead of assuming they will always be there, we treated each day as an opportunity to strengthen our relationships. The reality is, they will be gone some day. Or we will be gone. The time to connect with them is now, while we still can.
Call to Action
Nothing can ease the grief we feel right now about losing Charley. We miss him every moment. But as we forge a new normal routine without him, we are reminded to be present, to connect, and to accept.
Connect with your people today. Make that phone call, hug that friend, tell your spouse how much they mean to you. Be patient with your kids, even when they do that one thing that annoys you for the thousandth time. Tonight, put down the phone and close the laptop.
Be fully there.
Life is so much more than what we do for work, where we live, and what we do in our spare time. In the end, none of that really matters.
What people will remember about you is how you made them feel. Be a person who will be remembered for the connections you make today, the presence and attention you devote to others, and the accepting spirit that you embody.
In other words, be a Charley.