Top Ten Life Lessons From My Dog Sidney

Our family dog Sidney suffered from a stroke on Monday morning, August 29, 2011. She survived but is suffering from balance and coordination issues. The vet says she might recover, or she might get worse, that we will know in a few days which way she'll be headed. This emotional roller coaster has made me think about how important Sidney has been in our lives and how much she means to us.

There are lots of writings, "things I learned from my dog," and such. By no way am I competing with those, but rather I heal by writing about difficult experiences in life. about them. And once I wrote down these top ten life lessons, I thought perhaps they were worth sharing.


The Top Ten Life Lessons from my dog, Sidney, by Joni Sturgill


10. Celebrate enthusiastically. Whether it was Christmas or her birthday, Sidney got immense joy out of unwrapping presents. Holding her paw on the gift, she’d tear through the wrappings, with eyes bright and tail wagging. She would almost jump for joy to find the special doggie treat inside for her. There was no restraint, just pure enthusiasm, joy, and licks of gratitude!


9. Enjoy Nature. From the time Sidney was a young pup, we would take her off leash for hikes in the woods. Her tail would wag so fast and furious, and she would smile with her tongue out to one side as she pranced along. In moments of mindful meditation, Sidney walked slowly sometimes with her nose to the ground, taking in all the smells, sights and sounds, vibrant in the present moment.


8. Play Hard. Rest Hard. Whether it was a frisbee game or playing ball, Sidney was great at catch. As a young dog, she would run fast as lightening after that frisbee, sometimes leaping through the air to grab it at the last second. She would run and play fetch and tug-of-war tirelessly, until she finally sat down, panting and smiling. As her breathing would slow, she’d fall into a deep sleep.


7. Eat Dessert. Sidney had to have a frozen treat every night. Dogsters or Frosty Paws brands of doggie ice cream were her favorite. She’d wait by the freezer until we’d get her special treat. Sidney also loved popcorn and was great at catching popped kernels in mid-air. Enjoying your food is so important!


6. Karma: What Goes Around Comes Around. For breakfast in the morning, Sidney heard us peeling a banana and always came in for a bite. We would say we had to honor the “Dogmother” and give her our offering for the day. It was our way of thanking Sidney for being so gentle, sweet and well behaved.


5. Eat Healthy. She’s my dog, after all! While Sidney mainly ate dog food, she also occasionally enjoyed raw carrots, apples, bananas, and even cauliflower.


4. Accept Change. During Sidney’s life, we lived in 3 different states and 5 different houses. We went from her being our baby, to having two human babies. Then she watched them grow into wild boys. There were times when we played with her a lot, like when she was a pup, and times when Sidney-play took a backseat, like when the boys were babies. Sidney stayed steady through it all, accepting change better than any of us.


3. Stay Close to & Protect Those You Love. Sidney never ran away. Although she didn’t always listen to us obediently, there was no doubt that we were her family, and she would never leave us. She always barked at potential “intruders” at the front door, and was particularly suspicious of the UPS truck and driver. In recent years, she would pace back and forth on the driveway if the boys were playing in the neighborhood, away from her. If they started to leave her sight, she would bark, and pace some more, as if to tell me, “keep an eye on those boys, don’t let them get too far from home.”


2. Learn to Forgive. When the boys were babies, we didn’t have as much time to play with Sidney. Sometimes we'd leave her at “grandma’s” house while we went on vacation. There were times when Sidney’s needs came last behind everyone else’s. There are even times we raised our voices at her when she dug through the trash or jumped her paws on the kitchen counter. But Sidney always forgave us. She always greeted us with a smile and wag of her tail. Always. Not many humans do that - forgive, let go, and love unconditionally...which leads me to...


1. Love Completely. Sidney loved us and still loves us completely. I believe she would do anything to protect us and to be with us. Without prejudice or judgement, Sidney loved you too, if you knew her. As long as you weren’t a threat to her family, she’d invite you into her heart to be her new best friend. She’d bring toys to repairmen, or offer her silky head for patting or her belly for a rub to any person who came into our home. Sidney didn’t just offer love, but she, like many dogs and other pets, ARE love themselves. They are an incarnation of true love - without conditions. Sidney didn’t care about your job, your clothes, your social status or even your personality. I believe she saw the light - the glimmer of God that is within each of us - and connected with that. All the other stuff didn’t matter. She was Love, and she wanted to share.


Sidney-Bear, as we affectionately call her, is still fighting to stay with her family, even after her stroke on Monday. We are caring for her as she has cared for us, with love and compassion. Whether she wins this battle to recover, or if her end of life on earth is near, we are blessed and honored that she chose us to be a part of her life 12 years ago, when Matt and I met her on a farm in Slippery Rock, PA.