Why do I know what my dogs have to teach my children? Because I learned the same lessons they're learning now. Where their teachers are predominately collies, mine were two beautiful Golden Retrievers, a Springer Spaniel and a Yorkshire Terrier.
1. Family is Important
I guess I didn't appreciate it at the time, but when I look back - lots of our family moments involved our dogs. Discovering secluded beaches, almost being blown away, collecting precious shells and being just us away from the world.
Those adventures that became memories of a childhood spent with those people who influenced my life and shaped my future self. Photographs like the one below of a simpler time, when the most pressing matter was whether the Mr Whippy (my mum's favourite) ice cream van would still be by the car when we got back from our walk ;)
2. How to Just 'Be'
Life is considerably more stressful as an adult than it was through my childhood. But my favourite way to unwind and relax was, and still is, to go for a walk with my dogs.
Humans find it hard to just be in the moment, not to be thinking about the past or what's around the next corner. The joy of walking with a dog is finding the happiness and joy in small things - discovering a ball in a hedgerow, racing your doggy family, diving into your favourite patch of river or simply finding a jolly good smell to roll in!
I know many of my friends had dogs when I was growing up, but I'm not sure so many of them enjoyed the responsibility as much as I did! I'm sure there were days when it was a chore, but they aren't the memories that shine out from that time.
I remember feeling pleased that sorting the dogs out were my job, and feeling pride in doing it to the best of my ability. My memories include warming the kettle to add warm water to their breakfasts and the gravy juices making a delicious smell that had them all salivating in expectation. Of waking up early and going out for walks when there was barely anyone else about, just the bright, morning sunshine, dew on the grass and me and my dogs. Heaven :)
If my children's first experiences of friendship should come from our dogs, then I'm happy that they've been blessed with pretty extraordinary memories of what friendship is all about.
I have a vivid memory of one morning waking up to find a hive of bees crawling EVERYWHERE throughout my bedroom - silly me for leaving my bedroom light on and window open! Raffles my faithful Yorkshire Terrier, was in his usual place at the end of my bed - whilst I was desperate to be out of there as soon as I could, leaving him wasn't an option. He never left me, not till his eyes grew dim and his body grew thin and frail and it was his time to say goodbye.
5. Saying Goodbye
My first important goodbye was to our family's first ever dog - our darling Golden Retriever, Kelly. My nursemaid, and walking aid as a toddler, she had blessed our family with many wonderful memories - good, bad and the odd ugly! But as is the way with our precious pets, they can't live forever.
I don't remember the full medical details, though I believe it was something to do with a tumour. My parents explained to all of us that Kelly would be put to sleep and that we needed to say our goodbyes. I was about 11 years old and had recently started secondary school, it broke my heart and I cried my eyes out.
Is that something that I want my children to suffer? Not really, but I'd rather they had memories such as Kelly has left me with than never had the chance to experience the love of a wonderful dog like her. And her loss and dealing with that grief, made it easier to bear the loss of my beloved Granddad a few years later - she let me know that whilst the initial loss is so very painful, you never lose the memories you made together.