We’ve all seen those adoring posters of the little girl in pigtails with her arm around a dog equal to her size, sitting calmly on a dock somewhere, sharing life’s secrets and breathing in the common ground. 

Or the commercials of the attractive couple jogging along the paths of a well manicured park as a doting pup trots beside them sans leash. 

Then there’s the handsome college guy on the university campus yard, sporting his t-shirt and aviators— he tosses a frisbee to his furry friend who eagerly pounces after the favorite toy before returning in to the owner and dropping it sweetly at his feet for another round. 

Everyone wants these dogs. We dream about the nightly couch cuddles and leisurely summer walks around town. We ignore the part (the very large part, mind you) when they require training and attention and shots and baths and potty breaks when it’s raining or 20 degrees outside or 3am. 

Becoming a dog owner is a life changer, but when you find the right friend to bring into your family, you also let him/her into your heart and discover that they actually teach you just as much as you teach them. 

The following five points are among the valuable life lessons I’ve learned since becoming a dog owner— lessons that I find myself leaning on during particularly difficult days with our energetic pooch. While we've been doing the house training, the vet visits, the researching, the repeating of sit, stay, off, and for-God’s-sake-lay-down-we’re-trying-to-watch-a-movie-here… he’s found a way to sneak in a few lessons for his dear humans along the way. 

5 Life Lessons You Can Learn From Your Dog

1. Try anything. Then try it again.

The first time my dog tried to swim, it was both terrifying and hilarious to watch as he flailed his way around the lake. He was afraid to get his head wet and slapped his front paws around in a true doggy-paddle. But he kept finding his way back to shore and jumping right back in the water, fetching stick after stick, until he finally figured out a more efficient way to navigate. Now he's unstoppable. 

And it doesn't matter if it's freshly cooked and seasoned meat or the stripped chicken bone out by the dumpster, you can bet this pup is going to try to scarf up anything with the scent of food in any degree. That's not necessarily a good quality, but we must admire his adventurous palette. 

As humans, we so often find our strengths and cling to them out of fear or nervousness or just plain laziness. I have learned it's better to try and fail than to never try at all and wonder at the loss. 

2. Patience is a virtue and also a necessity.

My dog does not have patience. I have learned that **I** must have patience with him. Or in spite of him. Either way. . .

When he's wining for playtime even after extensive walks and fetch-sessions and treat training and . . . 

When he wakes up in the middle of the night sick because he ate a stripped chicken bone out by the dumpster. . . 

When he refuses to acknowledge that people don't appreciate being incessantly harassed upon entrance to our home . . . 

These are the situations when patience is a necessity. Yelling solves nothing. **Ooooh, such a _challenging_ lesson to learn.**

3. We are accountable.

Having a puppy means having another life under your care. It means more responsibility -- this creature needs food, water, stimulation, love, vet check-ups, baths -- those things that seem simple, but require your time, energy, finances, and dedication. It's a commitment, but one that can be so rewarding, like all relationships in which we invest.

4. Planning is key.

When you are only responsible for yourself, you can pretty much do **whatever** you want **whenever** you want to do it. But dogs are creatures of pattern and their needs don't wait when you decide to throw a curveball and go to happy hour after work or want to sleep in on a Saturday. 

Your vacation now requires either a pet-friendly hotel, an accepting relative, or a humane dog-sitter/kennel worked into the mix. Owning a dog is probably the quickest way to learn time management because the consequences are pretty apparent when a schedule is neglected. 

5. The little moments can bring the greatest pleasures.

Some days, I watch my dog chase after a frisbee or ride along in the jeep with eager eyes and ears flapping out the window and I think to myself, "I wish I showed the same excitement in anything as he shows for this." It's simply heart-warming. 

To witness that sheer happiness in such simple pleasures is to remind myself the value of life and the importance of appreciating it in every nook and cranny. It's too easy to get bogged down in the endless possibilities, the what-if's, the roads not taken -- but the earnest love and excitement of a puppy is a reminder of the happiness that is possible in the present. And more still, it's a reminder to live with passion-- the passion of a dog with an open window and a long, curvy road ahead. 

 

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