Everything I need to know, I learned from a dog
Posted by H. Schumaker on Jan 16, 2020

Everything I need to know, I learned from a dog

Wow - Mid March already and I can't say that I'm sad that Old Man Winter is packing up his dreary self and tagging out. I love the beauty of snow

Wow - mid March already…Can’t say as that I’m sad that Old Man Winter is packing up his dreary self and tagging out.  I love the beauty of snow and believe in the necessity of the changing of the seasons.  And we have had a relatively mild winter here in the East while my home state of Montana has seen one of the worst winters on record.  All of that being said, time for winter to go bye bye.  This hazel eye’d girl needs some sunshine!

Gunner Schumaker
August 15, 2005 - February 28, 2019

This past month, two weeks ago today in fact, we said good-bye to our Gunner.  He was 14 ½, a sweet old man complete with a white chin and a permanent toothy grin.  Couldn’t hear very well (unless it was the cookie jar), couldn’t see very well (unless it was a cookie), was full of lumps and bumps, arthritic legs, tired bones.  And always that smile.

Gunny lived for when his boy, CJ, came home on the weekends.  You would see a bounce in his step, an extra wiggle in his body, a sense of ‘puppy’.  Joy.  I can honestly say I don’t know whom loved the other more.  Gunner was CJ’s ‘bestest boy’ and I can pretty much assure you that CJ was Gunny’s bestest boy too.

Things don't work out as you always want them to. CJ had wanted to be there when the time came to let his Gunny go and unfortunately, that wasn't able to be. Rob and I were able to both be there with him, no substitute for CJ but we did the best we could. And as I held Gunner in my lap as he passed away, I promised him with all my heart that I would take good care of his boy always.  And I thanked him for loving my son so completely.

Dogs teach us so much about life.  There are so many lessons that we can learn from our pups, our companions, our fur babies about the way in which we live our lives.  And maybe, as spring starts to spring, maybe it’s a good time for us to take a step back, simplify, redirect our focus and start living our lives a little more like our four legged friends.  So in honor of our Gunner and our CJ, my boys, I wrote this one for you.

The Roles of Our Dogs

Before we get into the lesson part, I think it’s important to look at the roles our doggies take on in our lives.  They aren’t just pets to most of us.  They are members of the family and that role varies from family to family.   But those roles - they are necessary none the less.



Dixie Belle



For many, our dogs take on the role of child.  Firstborn.  An opportunity for us as individuals or as a couple to dip our hands into the parenting pool.  To invest our time in a living being outside of ourselves.  We care for them, nurture them, worry about them.  I truly think that one of the best things all people can do before they have a baby is to have a dog.

Companion and Best Friend





Whether you are newly divorced, just lost a spouse or striking out on your own for the first time, dogs can take on the role of companion.  Best friend and roommate.  Having that presence, that someone to come home to can make a lonely time in life not so lonely.  Give us not just someone to greet us when we walk in the door but someone to do things with - like walks in the park and car rides to Dunkin Donuts.

Care and Comfort





Service animals and emotional support dogs I think do so much good.  From the service aspect, these highly trained dogs are vital in the support and well-being of their companions that often have some sort of physical, sensory, intellectual or other type of disability.  And although I do think at times it has been taken advantage of, emotional support dogs provide essential support and companionship to those that need that extra assistance in getting through their days.


Let’s face it - the antics of our dogs make us laugh.  A lot.  And often times that joy and laughter that they bring turns our frowns upside down and turns a bad day into not so bad.  They do say that laughter is the best medicine and our dogs certainly are great providers of that!

Life Preserver





Many of us have had a dog that has saved us.  Pulled us from the depths of something that threatened to drown us.  Many a dog has swam to our rescue and helped us to breathe again.  Move forward.  Live.  Been a guiding light from a place of dark.  And those life preserver dogs, that role that they play - probably the most important role of all.

Dogs 101 - Life Lessons To Live By

We know their importance, those roles that they play in our lives. Let’s make sure that we are aware of the life lessons they teach. Because although being the ‘teacher’ is important, often times we forget that we are also the student.

Food is meant to be enjoyed.

There is nothing and I mean NOTHING like breakfast time around here.  When I go to feed the farm, my tribe looks at me like I’ve just served up a filet mignon on a plate of 14k gold.  When in all reality it’s dry kibble that came out of a plastic rolling bin.  They eat their food with drool bubbles and gusto, appreciating and loving every single bite.  They don’t count calories, measure macros, think about how many runs around the house they’ll have to complete in order to eat ‘that’.

Take time to listen.

Dogs are great listeners.  Whether it’s waiting for a command, snuggled up being read aloud to or simply letting you vent, our pups put a lot of patience into listening.  Because when they listen first and react second, often times there is a reward involved…much like life…jus sayin.

Greet the people you love with enthusiasm.

Every time a member of our family walks in the door they are greeted by a thundering herd.  A waggle of puppies that are so excited to see you.  Licks and whines that are there way of saying, “We missed you!”  Can you imagine if we greet one another that way?  What a wonderful world it would be.

Buy the hat.

Loyalty is paramount.

Loyalty is one of the most important virtues we can have.  And if dogs are anything, they are most certainly loyal beyond question to those they love.  Be loyal to those you love - fiercely and without doubt.

Catch some zzz's.

Sleep is so important.  In fact, I’m jealous of how much my dogs get to sleep and I know that I need to make sleep more of a priority in my life.  More cat naps on the couch in the sun for 20 minutes.

Chase the things that make you happy.

You know what makes my Gus Gus happy?  A ball.  And he will chase that ball repeatedly.  Because it makes him happy.  Go after the things in life that make you happy.  Chase them relentlessly.  Time and time and time again.

Reward yourself.

We reward dogs for a job well done.  Give them a treat.  We should do the same for ourselves.  Treat yourself to the iced coffee, the manicure, the one hour of alone time.  Don’t be so busy chasing the reward that you forget to treat yourself for achieving the success.

Go outside.

Almost every dog I know loves to go outside.  Five minutes, five hours - they love the great outdoors.  Even in his later days, Gunny loved going outside.  Sniffing the air like he was smelling a freshly cooked steak.  Sitting in the warmth of the sun on the deck.  Nature is such an overlooked gift.  Get your bad self outside and appreciate fresh air.

Forgive always.

Far and away, dogs are the most forgiving creatures.  My dogs have forgiven me a sharp word, a lack of attention, a nudge to the side.  Every single time.  Forgive the sharp word.  The lack of attention.  The nudge to the side.  Remember forgiveness isn’t for others, it’s for ourselves.

Show joy.

Our dogs show joy in countless ways.  Wagging their tails.  Running around the house.  Jumping.  I think as human beings we forget to show our joy, squash it for fear of looking silly.  Being made fun of.  Being seen as obnoxious.  Who cares?  Dogs don’t.  Show the world your joy!

Be you.

Dogs don’t sit there and say, “I wish my fur was curly instead of straight” or “I wish I had long legs like that Great Dane over there.”  They accept themselves for whom they are.  Short, tall, fat, skinny, bad teeth, long nails, crooked grin.  Be beautiful you.  Because that - that is enough.

Live in the moment.

Probably what I love most about dogs is how they unequivocally live in the moment.  They live life by the second, not worrying about five minutes from now.  What a gift that is!  Imagine how full we would be as individuals if we spent every day fully immersed in right now.


My house is a virtual PeeWee’s Big Adventure.  My dogs are either going 100 miles an hour or they are 0, passed out on the couch or the floor.  And they LOVE to play.  Countless times we mute the tv to watch them, to let them ‘get the demons’ out and enjoy their play time.  Life is serious enough, peepers.  Be silly and schedule in more play time.  That’s where the memories are made - not while you’re sitting at your desk working.

Love unconditionally.

We fail all the time as pet owners.  Our dogs love us anyways.  We get the meal in the bowl late because practice ran late.  Our dogs - they love us to pieces.  No walk today because I am tired and don’t feel like going.  I still love ya, momeez.  Regardless of the times we drop the ball as pet parents, don’t fulfill our obligations to our dogs, they love us.  What better example of how to ‘be’ is there than that…

Still Learning

I’ll be honest…it’s still hard.  I cried this morning as I wrote, thinking about Gunner.  Knowing that his ashes need to be picked up and I can’t bring myself just yet to go get them.  To see where I held him while he took his last breath.  And in my heart, I don’t feel it’s my job to bring him home.  That honor belongs to CJ.  When he is ready than it is my hope that we can go together and get his best boy.  And bring him back home.

To my Harley…you saved our family.  During a time when we were broken, you put us back together.  From day one, you knew how desperately I needed to be saved.  I am so grateful that you chose me that July afternoon. #lifesaver

To my Otis…you will always be my bestest boy.  Losing you is far and away one of the hardest things I’ve ever been through and there is not a day that goes by that you don’t cross my mind.  Thank you for the miles we walked, for being my 90 pound lap dog, for being never ‘just a dog’. #bestfriendsfurever

To my Gussy…oh boy, you are certainly my comfort.  You brought me peace and joy, showed me how to love a dog again when I didn’t think I could.  You’re my go-to therapist, my sammich sharer and without question, you get me through those days when I can’t seem to get out of my own way. #comfortzone

To my Bru Bru…you’re most certainly the comedian of the house.  You have brought a breath of fresh air into the tribe and your larger than life personality has been the perfect piece to our puzzle.  The joy that you have brought, the laughter and lightheartedness has been a gift.  #clowninaround

To my Farm…empty nesting is a funny thing.  And I couldn’t choose one of you without choosing all of you.  You expanded our lifeboat from five to nine and we are not one without the other.  You make me crazy, you make me worry, you make me laugh and you love me day in and day out.  I truly don’t know what I’d do without you.  #fourismyfavoritenumber

Take a moment and look for the lessons, the gifts that our dogs give us.  Greet the ones you love with enthusiasm and get outside to play.  Chase after the things you want in life and appreciate you for the beautiful you that you are.  Live in the here and now, forgive and treat yourself when you do a good job.  Enjoy your food, find the joy and be loyal to the ones that matter most.  Sleep.  Love.

And that hat...Buy it.