“No matter how little money and how few possessions, you own, having a dog makes you rich.” ~ Louis Sabin

It’s a sad day, week and month in our household.  Our beautiful 12 year old Golden Retriever, Lucy, (pictured above) passed away from complications from brain tumor surgery.  She started having seizures about a month ago, and when we did a scan, the tumor was revealed on her brain.

We immediately took steps to stop the seizures with proper medication, but she became so tired and lethargic.  She made messes on the floor all day and night, and she was so embarrassed. She was a proud girl. Because I was on the road traveling all the time, my wife was a rock, staying up all night, lying next to her trying to comfort her. It was tough on all of us, including our other Golden, Ricky, who was very confused as to what was going on.

She got stronger after a few weeks, and the doctors told us she was solid in all other areas, and should not have problems with the surgery, but unfortunately, it was not meant to be. She made it through the surgery like the trooper she was, but the next morning complications took her life.

I’ve always said God was having a particularly good day when He created dogs, and Lucy was at the top of the list.  She was a rescue dog, as was Ricky, and she came to us about 10 years ago from a person we had never met.  She was found in a canal by Maria, dirty and lost.  Maria took her in, cleaned her up and tried to find the owner for 6 months, without luck.  Lucy had a chip embedded in her, but it wasn’t registered to anyone. After 6 months, Maria couldn’t take care of her anymore due to personal circumstances, and through mutual friends, she came to us.

It was one of the best days of our life.  I’ll never forget the first time we met.  Lucy came bounding across the yard as a 2 year old, full of energy, pulling the leash out of Maria’s hand, and came right over to me tail wagging a hundred miles an hour, and immediately flopped over begging for a belly rub.  She loved belly rubs.  After that moment, we knew it was fate. There was no turning back.

After a little time together, we got her certified as a therapy dog because of her beautiful disposition and love of all humans, and we took her to hospitals, hospice centers and nursing homes where everyone she met instantly fell in love with her.

While Lucy taught me many things, these stand out:

  • You can have a powerful influence on a person’s life when you don’t even realize it. When we took Lucy to hospice centers and nursing homes, the patients were usually asleep, but it was the family members and friends visiting who got the most out of Lucy’s visits.  She took their minds off of the sad moments they were going through, and gave them a little respite from the situation at hand.  More than once, after hour long visits, we were thanked profusely, and told what a difference Lucy made in their lives that day.  A few people actually told us that they had dogs, and would look into getting them certified as therapy dogs.  Whenever we did these visits, we constantly brought a box of tissues. It was always quite emotional.
  • People matter.  We met so many wonderful people during our walks around the neighborhood, or visits to the dog park that we probably never would have met.  Lucy was always more attracted to humans than to other dogs.  She would do the obligatory dog sniffing, but after that was done, she would head right to the humans.  They could scratch her ears or rub her belly.
  • Protect your family and friends.  While Lucy was a very gentle dog, there were 1 or 2 times she felt she or we were threatened by outsiders, (humans or dogs) and when that happened, the teeth came out with a growl we rarely heard.  “Back off” she was saying, “you don’t want to mess with me”.  She had our back. When someone rang the doorbell, she would bark like crazy, letting the people at the door know they better be friends.
  • Learn to play.  Lucy always had a toy within reach just in case we were ready to play. And if there was nothing nearby, all we had to say was “Where’s your toy?” and she was up in an instant finding one within 5 seconds. Don’t take life so seriously.  Learn to play.  At the end of every play time, there was always a belly rub. That’s what she lived for. And when we finished with the belly rub, she would raise her head and start pawing at us not to leave, as if to say, “Hey, where are you going?  I’m not done here.  Keep rubbing.”  She played us like a priceless Stradivarius.
  • It’s okay to be afraid.  Lucy was afraid of thunder and fireworks, so when the weather turned bad, or 4th of July was approaching, we made sure to turn up the music in the house to drown out the loud noises.  Sometimes her whole body would shake with nervousness, and she would always seek us out.  Some cuddles and belly rubs would make her feel better.
  • Don’t be obsessed with work.  If my wife and I were in our office working on the computer, and 3 or 4 hours went by, Lucy would always walk into the room, and with her nose, start knocking our hands off the keyboard or mouse.  It was her way of saying it’s time for a little break.  And she was always right.
  • Be in the present moment.  It’s no good living in the past or worrying too much about the future.  Life is meant to be lived now.  Learn to take car rides so they can stick their heads out the window and smell the fresh air.
  • Forgiveness.  Sometimes we didn’t see her beneath our chair, or in the dark, and we would step on her tail or knock into her.  For a split second she was surprised and confused, but after that all was forgiven.  Nothing a belly rub or a treat couldn’t overcome.

There are so many more life lessons I could talk about: patience, tolerance, loyalty, devotion, unconditional love and of course, naps.  There have been many tears so far, and I’m sure there will be more to come.  If I could only see that tail wag one more time. But our lives are so much richer and better off for being with her for 10 years.  Ricky will adjust, and so will we. One thing we will always remember: you can never have too many belly rubs.

Paul Rutter is a customer loyalty, repeat business and customer service expert, a keynote speaker, corporate trainer and business author. He has had the unique opportunity to live with his customers and co-workers for months at a time traveling the world, and shares his experiences with land based businesses. For more information on More Than Perfect® Service, contact Paul at Paul@PaulRutterSpeaks.com, follow him on Twitter on @RealPaulRutter or visit him on Facebook/PaulRutterSpeaks.

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