All dogs are therapy dogs, some just get a vest to wear.

Today is the 11th birthday of our golden retriever, Youkilis, and he wanted me to share some of his thoughts with everyone.

During these uncertain times, Youkilis, our golden retriever, continues to have the best perspective.  As I’ve mentioned before, dogs have a way of keeping us living in the moment.  Humans on the other hand, have a tendency to always be planning ahead, worrying and fretting about tomorrow.

Now more than ever, we need to take those lessons from our dogs and live in the moment.  The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world upside down.  We are all facing the harsh reality that tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us.

Youk doesn’t ever worry about anything and he is looking at this current time as an amazing opportunity to take advantage of having his humans by his side 24/7.  He is literally grateful for every breath that he takes and every second that he has with the people that he loves and we should feel the same way.

Over the past month, between my sister passing away and the COVID-19 pandemic, our family like everyone else has had its share of difficulty, but Youk always allows us to look at the bright side of things.

Shortly after my sister passed away, we took him into my dad’s apartment to visit my dad along with some other family members.  Youk would make his way around the group in no particular order and each person would pet him for a little bit and then he would move on.  He was taking all of the sadness, stress and sorrow off of each of us as he “worked the room.”  I paid particular attention to my dad when he was petting Youk.  It really seemed as though a weight was being lifted off of his shoulders by the simple act of petting a golden retriever.  With little effort, Youk was taking his mind off of the loss of his daughter, even if it was for just a few minutes, it was doing wonders for my dad.

There are so many lessons that we can learn from our dogs and one thing that has been so clear during this current time in history, is to be grateful for what we do have as opposed to worrying about what we don’t have.  Sure, we can all sit and sulk over the tough times that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought on us, may bring on us, or what lies ahead in the future.  I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of this situation, but I also think that we must all stay positive and focus on what we have to be grateful for in our lives.

I mentioned this in my last post, but I think that it deserves mentioning again.  I’m not a doctor or a scientist, but the one thing that I do know is that worry and anxiety accomplishes nothing good.  As a matter of fact, it lowers our immune systems quite a bit.  At the end of the day, worrying or not, it doesn’t change the outcome of the situation.

So with that thought in mind, Youk has given me a list of just some of the things that he is grateful for and he wanted me to share it here in no particular order…

  • God.
  • Today.
  • Every Day.
  • Waking up in the morning.
  • His human Mommy and Daddy.
  • His extended human family.
  • Climbing into our bed and being the first to greet Sandy and me with a smile in the morning.
  • Cuddling with his humans.
  • Breakfast.
  • Dinner.
  • Short walks.
  • Long walks.
  • Hikes in the woods.
  • Walks on a sunny day.
  • Walks on a cloudy day.
  • Walks in the rain, even if the walk starts out Sunny and we get caught in a storm.
  • Snacks.
  • Human food.
  • Meeting other humans on our walks and greeting them. He does not understand social distancing and wants no parts of the concept.
  • He’s grateful that he can’t get COVID-19 and therefore does not have to comply with social distancing.
  • Naps.
  • Big fenced in yard.
  • Sitting on the couch and watching TV with his humans.
  • Having humans who were so easy to train.
  • Truck rides.
  • Car rides.
  • New RV house.
  • The ability to make people happy.
  • The ability to make people forget about their problems.
  • Things to smell.
  • Exploring.
  • Enjoying the journey.
  • Understanding the importance of slowing down.
  • Grass.
  • Flowers.
  • Life.

I had to stop there, but he was just going on and on.

I then asked him to give me the list of things that he worries about, so here is that list in no particular order…

  • Nothing.

Taking a lesson from a dog sounds silly to many people I am sure, but it really is quite therapeutic.  They live in the moment, they are grateful for everything and they do not fret over what happened yesterday because there is nothing that can be done to change it, nor do they worry about tomorrow for it is not guaranteed.

Youk is not prejudice, he is willing to give everyone and everything the sniff test and if it doesn’t pass the sniff test, he simply pees on it and moves one.  If it does pass the sniff test, he just moves on.  Either way, he is going to move on and move forward.  We should do the same.

He has an uncanny ability to know when we do get a little stressed out and when we need a distraction.

As I mentioned in Youk’s first lesson for us, his demeanor rarely changes.  He’s going to find the bright side of everything that comes his way.

The other day, it was raining really hard and wasn’t going to stop until late in the evening.  I had to go get the mail.  When he saw me head to the garage door, he quickly rushed over as though we were going to go for a walk.  I explained to him, not today because it’s raining way too hard and he sat next to his leash as if to tell me, “I’m ok if I just walk up the driveway to get the mail with you today, Daddy.”

So that’s what we did.  I put him on his leash and we walked up the driveway in the rain, grabbed the mail and walked back down to the house.  When we got back into the garage, he was as happy as could be.  It was about two minutes time total, but he was just as happy as he was when we completed our five mile walk yesterday on a beautiful 65 degree day. He was grateful.

With that thought in mind, Youk challenged me to come up with a list of things that I am grateful for during the COVID-19 pandemic as well, so here goes, in no particular order…

  • God.
  • Sandy.
  • Family.
  • Youkilis.
  • Waking up in the morning next to my wife and Youkilis.
  • The ability to still take Youkilis on Walks during the current Stay at Home order in our county and state.
  • Time – Allowing us, or perhaps forcing us to slowdown and reset.
  • Fresh air.
  • Trees, flowers, mountains, valleys and God’s beautiful creation.
  • Food and Water.
  • Showers.
  • Music.
  • Naps.
  • Technology – Phones, text messaging, computers, Zoom meetings, Facetime, Facebook video messenger, positive side of social media, so that we can still connect with the family and friends that we love and have been separated from during this pandemic.
  • Technology – That allows Sandy and me to work from home.
  • Technology – That allows us to hear our pastor’s message each week as well as the messages of others all over the country.
  • New RV and a new journey that’s ready to start in God’s timing.
  • God’s grace.
  • Faith over fear.
  • Peace that passes all understanding.
  • Baseball & Softball – Even though we can’t play it in an organized manner right now, I am still grateful for all of the life lessons that the game has taught me over the years.
  • Netflix.
  • Perspective – Yes, we live in a time of great concern and uncertainty right now, but we should heed the words of the great Lou Gehrig and what he said during his farewell speech on July 4, 1939 after being diagnosed with ALS, “…you have been reading about a bad break. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth…So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for. Thank you.”

Once I started compiling my list of things to be grateful for, I, like Youkilis, couldn’t even list everything that I came up with.  When we really focus on the positive things in our lives, we understand that the grace of God is limitless.  Sandy and I keep a notebook on our half wall between our kitchen and dining room and each day we write down three things that we are grateful for.  We’ve been doing it for a little over a year now and it is truly amazing how it makes us focus on the good in our lives as opposed to the bad.  It works best when you’ve had a lousy day, and you have to pause and focus on what you have in your life to be grateful for.

Yes, we may have all been dealt a bad break with this virus, but when we really think about it, we all still have an awful lot to live for and if you’re struggling to find things to be grateful for, find a dog, they’ll help you put it all into perspective.