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Learning some lessons from man’s best friend

Published: Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013 3:39 p.m. CDT

This last Sunday afternoon I arrived back in Morris after almost nine days on the road. My son, Luke, and I were on a mission trip with our church in Newfane, N.Y. It was an amazing experience.

As we were unpacking in the church parking lot my wife, other son Cody, and our dog, Maci, pulled in. As soon as Maci saw me she went crazy! The deep, unending, and unconditional love that a dog has for its family is something that we should all strive for.

I greeted her and tried to contain her enthusiasm. That tail was wagging so fast it darn near flew off. As we were saying our “hellos” to each other, I was taken back to some memories involving our canine counterparts.

The first happened just the previous week while in New York. The house that we were working on was in desperate shape, but amongst the overwhelming chores of what needed to be accomplished was Whitey. As his name suggests, he was an all-white Jack Russell Terrier, and what a bundle of energy he was.

The folks who lived in the house said Whitey was a friendly dog and to not worry about him. They could not have been more accurate. Here were 14 complete strangers entering his domain, and he sized us up accordingly. After a few minutes, Whitey must have settled upon the fact that we were OK because he left his cautious attitude towards us behind and replaced it with a desire to get to know us personally.

As my crew and I started to tear down a plaster ceiling in the master bedroom, Whitey watched. He would hide behind some furniture until the banging stopped, then he would peak his nose out, and if deemed safe, would lunge toward us and lick us incessantly.

Once the work commenced, he would scamper off and spy on us from a distance again.

As the week wore on the stress of completing our projects was beginning to mount. That is, until Whitey showed up. That little, furry ball of love would break through the stress and bring smiles to 14 faces. How many people do you know that can do that?

As we left the house for the last time, I could see Whitey in the upstairs bedroom window saying goodbye in his own way.

Dogs are as much a part of the outdoors as anything else we can think of. They thrive in natural surroundings and have a way of helping us enjoy the outdoors in a deeper more meaningful way. Just ask any canine pal if they want to go outside and see what happens. I know my dog Maci nearly goes into cardiac arrest when those words are mentioned.

Whitey was an inside dog. He only goes outside on the rare occasion that someone takes him for a walk. You see, his current owners are in a state of failing health and no longer have the ability to take him out like they used to. Some members of our crew took Whitey for several walks.

When he stepped onto the green grass and lifted his nose high into the air, a new life coursed through him. He looked like a new dog, a younger dog, a dog that was eager to explore everything around him and didn’t know where to start. He was pure joy to watch.

As I scampered back and forth trying to complete my projects, I kept an eye on this new outside version of Whitey. You talk about living the phrase stop and smell the roses. He did that all right, and he wasn’t afraid to stick his nose in just about anything else he came across either!

We can learn so much from dogs: how to live, how to love and how to treat every second outdoors as a gift. Whitey knew that feeling the grass below his toes was a special event and he treated it as such. This little terrier didn’t take it for granted.

Our dogs do not have to be hunting companions to help us enjoy the outdoors. They are pre-programmed with a natural love and curiosity that we can learn so much from. Whether it is swimming in the lake, going for long walks, or playing fetch, we should all approach our time outdoors with the same passion that our dogs do.

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