It is hard to ask for a better friend than a dog.
We have all heard that said in some way at some time.
What I did not know is that in addition to being my friend, my dog would also be my teacher.
Every time I came home, my beagle Rebel would jump to the window, then excitedly greet me at the door. Once my hands were free, he was eager for a hug and a kiss. Have I done the same for my wife when she gets home?
From time to time, my work takes me away from home for several days. After being gone for particularly long times, when I got home, I would be scolded with Rebel's barks for being "lost."
Yet, somehow, those same barks conveyed joy that I found my way home.
Have I made sure my children knew the joy I felt when they "found their way home," even though I scolded them?
Far from perfect, from time to time, he would know exactly what I wanted and still disobeyed.
From time to time, I would punish him. In all likelihood, sometimes for things he did not do or not in proportion to what he did do. He never harbored anger or a grudge. Have I don't the same with those who wronged me?
Rebel always woke up in a good mood, even if he was groggy. He almost never worried about anything. He made sure to make time to enjoy the warmth of the sun and the refreshing breeze on his face, some of life's greatest pleasures. Meeting new people was always a joy. Little would get him worked up, but when it did, he would stubbornly pursue his goal to the end and never willingly give up. Can I say the same things about myself?
With age comes aches and pains and parts that do not work quite like they did in youth. Rebel never complained and these inconveniences rarely deterred him from doing what he set out to do. As he aged, Rebel learned many of life's lessons and was thus imbued with genuine wisdom. During a recent evening walk, while the sun was setting, he sat down on the top of a hill and looked wistfully over the back yard and meadow beyond where he used to run.
Rebel always wanted to be at my side. No matter where I went, no matter what I did, no matter how boring for him, he wanted to be there because I was there. There was never a moment when he was not faithful.
Suddenly, he could no longer walk. The diagnosis was cancer in his spine. I tried to be strong, but couldn't help but cry. With his front limbs, he dragged his paralyzed body to my side and gently pressed his head to my leg to comfort me. He was trying to comfort me as he was dying.
When it is my turn to account for my days on this earth, will I be able to give an accounting that measures up to this ever faithful friend, companion, and teacher, Rebel?