The first time we met, he ran to me and jumped into my arms, like he knew that was where he was meant to be all along. I never knew I could gain so many life lessons from a dog. But, my sweet little dog, Bentley has taught me so much over the past six years, and 8 important lessons about life & health truly stand out.
1. Life Lessons from a Dog: Say Goodbye Every Time Like it’s the Last Time
Bentley is a rescue dog. I met him at Sunny Sky’s Animal Shelter in Puyallup, Washington, where he had been flown up from a kill shelter in California. Not a lot was known about his past life, but what they did know was that he had been dropped off at that shelter by his first owner.
I’ve always liked to think that his puppy years were spent in a very loving home, but something happened to his previous owners which prevented them from being able to care for him. I imagine that dropping him off at that shelter was their very last resort and the most difficult day of their lives.
Since he has been through the experience of being left by the person he loved most in the world and they never came back, Bentley has a fear of that happening again.
Dropping him off with the groomer is as heartbreaking every time as dropping a toddler off at preschool for the first time. He clings to me and he watches out the window with the saddest look on his face as I leave.
Every time we say goodbye, Bentley lets me know just how much he loves me.
This is a lesson I have taken to heart and apply to my most important relationships. We never know what tomorrow may bring. So, every time I need to say goodbye to my loved ones, I ensure that if it’s the last time, I’m leaving them without a doubt of how much I love and care for them.
2. If it Doesn’t Bring You Joy, Don’t Waste Your Time
There isn’t much that Bentley loves more than to run around outside at top speeds.
On the flip-side, there isn’t much he despises more than the rain.
If it’s pouring-down-rain outside, Bentley is perfectly content to skip his morning walk. In fact, I can open the front door for him and he will take one look out there, sit down right where he is (inside) and look up at me like “Are you kidding me!? NOPE.”
Bentley never hesitates to skip out on something he doesn’t enjoy. He lives his life to the fullest and just doesn’t have time for anything he doesn’t absolutely love.
When I first began my journey with health and fitness, I was anxious to see results. I would eat foods I didn’t really enjoy and spend hours working out every day, pushing myself past the point of actually enjoying the exercise.
This is extreme, and not worth your time.
You can eat food you love and find ways to get your exercise that are fun and still see the results you are looking for.
3. Run with All Your Heart
Bentley loves to run.
He runs fast and low and I swear his little ear drags on the ground with every corner he takes. He runs himself to exhaustion.
My journey with fitness began with daily walking, and quickly progressed to running, with Bentley in the lead. It never mattered how fast I was running, if he was on the leash in front of me it was never fast enough.
Running with Bentley taught me one of the most valuable life lessons from a dog: that running could be fun. I starting competing in 5Ks and even ran a half marathon.
Even though I was pushing my body past limits I’d never even approached before, I did it in a way that I could enjoy. I put my heart and soul into every run.
4. Never Turn Down a Treat You Really Want
Little Bentley is in pretty good shape from all the running he does, but his eating habits have taught me a lot, too.
That little guy only eats when he is hungry. He doesn’t devour everything in his bowl just because it’s there or it’s “time to eat.” If he feels hungry, he knows where to find his food and he’ll nibble at it until he’s satisfied.
I’ve never seen him turn down a great treat, though. If there is a slice of cheese, some bacon or a really tasty cookie to be had, you can bet Bentley will be right there waiting patiently.
He never turns down a piece of bacon because he’s counting calories and he never says no to a cookie because the grains make him bloat. Bentley knows the treat may not be offered again for a while, so he enjoys the opportunity!
I’ve learned to be okay with enjoying treats too. They aren’t every-day staples, and I don’t need to eat every candy or piece of cake that I see. But, I don’t turn down a slice of my aunt’s peanut butter pie and I gladly enjoy a glass of wine if I feel like it after a long week.
A balanced diet can include occasional treats, and those treats are meant to be enjoyed!
5. Make Time to Rest
Bentley loves to be in bed by 8:30 every night, and he looks forward to snuggling on the couch all day long.
That dog can run and run all day, but if a good lap becomes available, he’ll drop everything and hop up (especially if that lap includes a soft blanket).
I’ve learned from Bentley that it’s okay to work hard all day and expend energy, but rest is important and shouldn’t be put off.
Hubs and I love to wind down in the evenings in front of a good sitcom with Bentley snuggled up between us. When we’re ready to go to bed, we usually find him on the guest bed, already asleep.
6. Never Be Afraid to Reach New Heights
For me, reaching new heights is figurative, but for Bentley, it’s quite literal.
The dog can hop.
He hops everywhere. Seriously.
Hubs also likes to hold treats up in the air for him to jump for. He loves to hop along when we take him for a walk, and he loves to jump for those treats.
I never trained him to do any of this, and boy was it a surprise when we went for our first walk together!
Watching Bentley “reach new heights” and enjoy every second of it so damn much inspires me daily to enjoy my life that much as I strive to reach my greatest heights.
Every time I set a new goal, the end result is forefront of my mind. But I try to pause occasionally and check in with myself. It’s important to remember to enjoy the journey, too.
7. Always Be Self-Confident
Bentley can sometimes be a little too sure of himself.
I’ll never forget the time we were camping on a friend’s property and Bentley was off-leash with us by the river. It was a public access area, but our group were the only people there, so our dogs were all running free.
Another group showed up for just a bit and happened to have two poodles. When they left, Bentley was walking right along behind them. He was so sure of himself and so happy to see these other poodles. He came back as soon as I called for him, but as he was walking with these other people, they didn’t even notice him there, he was so confident!
This is a lesson I’m still learning every day.
Even when I’m not so sure of myself, I do my best to act as confident as Bentley that day at the river. If I look sure that I belong there, maybe everyone else will believe it too.
8. Greet Each Morning with Excitement
Every morning, Bentley wakes up slowly. He takes a minute to open his eyes, stretch his legs and squeeze in one more quick little snuggle.
Then suddenly, HE’S UP!
He jumps on me, he jumps on Hubs, he hops off the bed and runs around the room and he literally spins in circles!
I’ve never met someone who could greet a new day with the same level of pure joy and untamed excitement as Bentley does.
Every time that alarm goes off and I wake up groggily thinking I should get a few more minutes of sleep, I try to embody some of Bentley’s spirit.
Every day, I strive to greet the new morning with joy and wonder of what this day will bring. I look for the beauty in the sunrise and savor every drop of my coffee.
Mornings are my time.
I usually have about two hours each morning before Hubs and Bentley get up. This is my time to sip my coffee, read, journal, blog and reflect. I absolutely love my mornings.
If every day can start with the joy and excitement that Bentley brings, every day can be a wonderful day.
Life Lessons from a Dog
I never knew I could learn so much about wellness and the little joys of life from a sweet little dog I met in an animal shelter.
Bentley has taught me to:
- Say goodbye every time like it’s the last
- Stop wasting time on anything that doesn’t bring me joy
- Run with all my heart
- Enjoy my food
- Take the time to rest
- Fearlessly reach new heights
- Exude self-confidence
- Greet each morning with excitement
With my little dog setting the perfect example of a healthy, motivated life, I know I can do anything I set my mind to.
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