My neighborhood pal Sammy made an appearance in my backyard today. His parents let him wander around without a leash. I envy that about him. Family is at the core of his life too, with his parents and his grandparents both living in a couple of houses down the road from us.
He is one of the older and wiser dogs in the neighborhood, and I have come to respect him a great deal. We’ve had our fair share of playtime in the snow, wrestling in the mud, and moments when I’ve been able to learn from his mysteriously silent demeanor. I’m always surprised by what I learn from our sporadic moments of silence together. Like many, today’s lesson came as quite a surprise to me.
Unlike Sammy’s parents, mine make a point to leash me in our almost-completely-fenced-in backyard. My lead allows me to roam the majority of the yard, but no further. I know it is for my own protection, but I didn’t understand why until today. I overheard my parents discussing this issue and couldn’t help but pay close attention. If you put him on his leash, dad said, there is no reason we shouldn’t have at least 12-14 more years with him. What a morbidly awful thing to overhear. Yet it brings to the surface something I see in Sammy, who has had some serious health issues lately: I won’t be around forever. My days are numbered. And like Pope John Paul II said, “the future starts today, not tomorrow.”
My future starts today with reflections of my past and present. My adoptive parents are already so attached to me, I can’t say where their emotions will be after 12-14 more years. And I know part of their plan is to adopt another dog when I start to get older to ease with the unavoidable truth that they will most likely outlive me. Truth be told, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love them unconditionally and can say with all honesty that I will die happy knowing my successor is in place to make sure they keep smiling after I’m gone.
But my encounter with Sammy today reminded me there are some things the future me needs to know. Abraham Lincoln once said “the best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” So today I make it a point to bring the future to life by penning a detailed letter to my future me.
Dear future me,
I know if you’re reading this, it means I am living the high life in doggie heaven. Sadly that means I have left the life of love and gratitude in my forever home, but fortunately for both of us you are there to fill my paw prints. I’m a simple dog, and I don’t have any reason to believe my paw prints will be too big for you to fill. But there are some things you need to know:
1) No doesn’t really mean no if you sit nicely and make a cute enough face.
2) Try not to pester dad too much at night. I know he secretly loves the interaction, but he needs his quiet alone time to reboot too.
3) Mom is pretty special. Don’t let her forget it.
4) Being “emotionally needy” is a compliment, not a criticism.
5) Barking at all sorts of animals on the moving picture window (animated, robotic, live, or otherwise) is not acceptable, whereas barking to protect from any kind of wrongdoing most definitely is acceptable.
6) Find something to be thankful for each day, then find a way to share the gratitude you feel.
7) Never turn down affection. It’s always a good time for a hug.
8) Dance like no one’s watching (this is one of mom’s favorite things to do).
9) Love with all your heart and life will never let you down.
10) Live each day like it were your last walk around the dog park.
You should know there is so much more I wish I could tell you. I am fortunate enough to have had many mentors in my days who have taught me so much either by their actions or their words. One of the most important things they taught me was to believe in myself and the power I have to share joy with the world. You share that same potential. Know that joy is yours to find and yours to share in all you do.