Life Lessons from Priestly

About a month ago I had to make the tough decision to put my 13-year-old Pit bull pup Priestly to sleep.  Anyone who has ever had to make that decision can understand just how tough it can be.  Was I making a selfish decision due to the fact he was becoming harder to care for?  Or was it selfish of me to sit and watch him struggle every day just so I still had his companionship? There was no easy answer, and there seemed to be no right time. There is never a right time when saying goodbye and 13 years just wasn’t enough time. The truth be told though if I had ten more years with him it still wouldn’t be enough. It would never be enough time.

At the end of something, it can be hard not to focus on the loss that we have experienced. It can be extremely difficult to try to find the good in situations when there appears to be none to find. Something I try my best to do in situations like this is ask myself the type of questions that give me time to reflect and find any silver lining there may be.  Questions like what did I learn through this? How was my life made better and how have I grown as a person?  I try to find the good and something to be thankful for. I am not perfect at this, and I still will focus on the blows of life, the pain inflicted and miss what a blessing all situations and circumstances in life can be.

The last day I spent with him I started reflecting on my time with Priestly. His character, personality, the way he lived his life and all the good he had brought to my life.  In the middle of this there seemed to be many things that I could learn from this little guy.

The first thing seemed to be the most obvious until I looked closer and saw the deeper meaning. Priestly showed me time and time again that if you stared at a piece of food someone was holding long enough, that he could magically make the person give him a little taste.  Well maybe that didn’t work on everyone but it worked on me. I rarely finished anything without giving him the last bite. I mean I just couldn’t say no to that face and dedication; he was committed. He would stand still at complete attention, appearing to not even breathe, all while hoping I would ignore the drool string hanging from his mouth to the floor. The smaller the portion of food in my hand got the more determined and committed he became. Priestly taught me that for the things we truly want in life there is no time to quit.  Today we seem to quit at the slightest bit of resistance. We give up on dreams, quit marriages, jobs, and walk away from life long friends instead of being committed to our word. Priestly taught me the truest definition of commitment. That Commitment is deciding that the price is worth paying for the outcome and results that you want in your life. There are a lot of books written about success and how to be successful. I have read books with eight magical steps for success to books with 20 plus steps and I am sure if you applied all the steps in these books they may work; but really there is only one thing you need to be successful, and that is to be willing to do what others are not willing to do. If others aren’t willing to do the extra, and you are willing to do what they won’t do, you will succeed at whatever you choose to undertake. Choose to be committed and choose to do what others refuse to do. Don’t quit and if you ever feel like quitting stop and be grateful that you have something to quit in the first place.

What I learned next was something I think we all should learn to apply in our lives.  Priestly knew that it was his responsibility to make sure others were comfortable with him first and didn’t expect others to make the first move.  I remember I was having a Thanksgiving dinner at my house and invited others who had no relatives nearby or place in which to celebrate the holiday.  There were about 20 people in attendance and a crowd that size there will always be at least one or two people who are terrified of dogs; especially an 80 pound Pit Bull.  I can still see him walking through the crowd saying hello to everyone and greeting everyone with a tail wag and a humungous smile.  Without fail, you would soon see him sit down right beside the person who was not comfortable with him. He would sit as still as he possibly could, doing his best to let this person know that he understood and that they had nothing to be afraid of. He wanted people to see the best of him and was never worried or concerned about them coming to him; he would make the first move and go to them.

In a world where people have the mentality of judging others and thinking only of themselves, Priestly knew that his world would be what he made it.  If he were a person, I could see him walking into a coffee shop and talking to everyone and always being the first to offer a smile and a handshake to others first. Totally unconcerned with whether they rejected him but instead he knew his role was to ensure others were comfortable with him and that he meant no harm.  Today people are so overwhelmed with being perceived as weak or fear rejection by others, Priestly was the total opposite. In a world where people make others earn their trust Priestly freely gave it.  We refuse to do something for others because we think they would never do anything for us. Priestly treated others the way he hoped others would treat him. Priestly went first in life. What kind of world would we live in today if people were focused on others instead of themselves? If we would take the courage to go first and offer friendship without looking for anything in return.

At the end of Priestly’s life, he suffered from cancer in his front leg and by his last days his leg was of no use to him. Cancer had eaten the bone in his leg from the inside out and due to this was broken in several places. The vet explained just how much pain he was in and due to the circumstances I can only imagine.  Yet he never showed signs of the pain he was in. Sure he slept a lot more those last few months, and he was unable to enjoy all of the activities he once loved, but he never complained. By complaining I am saying he never focused on what wasn’t happening for him in life, he focused on what he did have.  He would still put on a smile for us because he knew we needed it. He would have endured the pain as long as he was asked to. Priestly had taken quite a few blows in life. Left at the shelter at five years old, covered in ticks, fleas, and scheduled to be euthanized the very day we decided to adopt him, Priestly was simply grateful. Grateful for a life in which he was able to live 8 more years, chew up bones, eat peanut butter sandwiches, cuddle on the couch, go for a walk, and most of all go for rides in the car with his head out the window.  I realize that bad things happen in life, but we still have a choice to make. We can either choose to be identified by the circumstances, the so-called bad things that occur, live focusing on what we have been through and lost or choose to be simply grateful for the blessing that being alive truly is.

Priestly could have easily decided all people are bad, after all it was people that dropped him off at the pound. It was people that had given up on him for no real reason. He could have become bitter, felt sorry for himself and became angry about all that had happened to him but he didn’t. From the first time, he walked in my house he just seemed happy with being alive and his past had no future.

Life to Priestly was simple, and every day was a blessing to him.  He took the time to enjoy the small things in life, the stuff we never notice because we are too busy complaining about what is not happening.  Too busy focusing on the wrongs of others, what they have done to us, and tough stuff we go through instead of the opportunity each situation presents to us. To preoccupied with the story of our life and all the happenings from the past that somehow have more value and importance than our today.  Life gives us information in the form of situations that come up in life, and we can either focus on the pain of the blow or we learn to appreciate the information and grow. Simply said Life gives us information and how we mature that information determines the quality of our life.  We can focus on the hurt and loss or look around see all of the blessings.

So today I just want to thank my friend Priestly because I have learned so much from you.  To treat others the way I would like others to treat me and to go first. To put others first and with no regard to their response, results or outcome. Because I have no control over how others choose to receive or not receive me. I can only show up and offer the best of who I am. That even though there is some bad in my life, that the good is just as easily accessible to me. To be committed and determined to see my dreams through and live a life that brings fulfillment to others and myself. Thank you for showing me the benefit of being grateful no matter what life throws my way and taking the time to enjoy the small things, like walks, peanut butter sandwiches, and who knows maybe I will even try taking a ride and putting my head out the window.  Thank you for teaching me that before I walk through the door of my house each morning, the door to my car, door to my relationships, and my job I should first walk through the door of gratitude. Thank you for the unconditional love, your friendship and always greeting me with that big smile of yours.  And most of all, thank you for helping me to see and appreciate the awesome gift that being alive truly is.