As you may know, dear reader, my Hearing Ear Dog “Amie” has been living with cancer in her bladder (invasive transitional cell carcinoma) for some time now. In fact, it has been almost 20 months ago that we were given the news that she may only have 2 months to live. Somehow, she has beaten the odds and has survived much longer than expected. All the vet can tell us is “Keep doing what you are doing. I am not sure what it is is, but it seems to be working!” To be honest, I am not sure either.
My wife and I were reflecting on the impact Amie has had on our lives. In addition, how how Amie has changed my personality.
Here are some of the lessons Amie has taught me:
- Praise is Better than Punishment for Changing Behavior. Amie never responded well to being punished. She hated it and would shut down even if I simply raised my voice a bit. But boy did she love praise. Works much better for humans too.
- Don’t Yell! I was raised in an Eastern European household in which there was quite a bit of yelling. We were all used to it and thought it was acceptable to fly off the handle once in a while. Well, Amie never liked that, nor did my English wife. However, whenever I had what our family referred to as a UTT (Ukrainian Temper Tantrum), Amie would hide in a corner and shake. Within just a few short weeks of getting Amie, my UTT’s dropped off dramatically. And they have stayed low for the 12+ years that Amie has been in our household.
- Virtue of a Simple Life. We can get all hung up on the latest toys and gadgets in life. Oh look, the Joneses next door now have an Acura and a Beemer. But Amie had no use for any of those things. Her favorite toy is a squeaky hedgehog and a tennis ball. Her favorite activity was a walk in the woods. She kept us grounded and humbled.
- Fortitude or Keep your Chin Up Despite Adversity. Despite having herniated a disk in her spine, having cancer, and Idiopathic Vestibular Disease, Amie keeps wagging her tail, and loves our company. Similarly, being deafened may suck, but it clearly is not the end of the world.
- Forgiveness. If I forgot to feed Amie, or didn’t take her for much of a walk, she always forgave me unconditionally. So if, for example, someone forgets to speak clearly for me, I try to forgive.
- Identification of Good Character. Amie is so sweet, she loves everybody. There was no one that she hated, she saw good in everyone. Some even overcame their life long fears of dogs after meeting Amie! But still, some folks did not like her. And you know what, these people ended up not being nice people at all. So having Amie saved me time but not wasting energy on these people. On the other hand, there were folks I thought were unsavory characters, but because they took a positive interest in Amie, I also gave them a chance. Turns out they were ok after all.
- Naps are a Good Thing. Amie was always ready to alert me at any time, 24 hours a day. How did she do it? By being well rested! We should all take more naps or at least get a good night’s sleep.
- Live Life to the Fullest. A dog’s lifespan is much shorter than ours. And there is nothing anyone can do about it. Amie is 14.5 years old now, which is a pretty good life span for a dog. But like all of our lives, it will end. The Existentialists tell us that we could all use a healthy dose of Death Awareness to give us that kick in the butt we all need to get on with Living. Nothing like seeing another creature’s life come to its end stages to reinforce that point.
- Adapt. After Amie’s back surgery for her herniated disk in her spine, one of her back legs did not have the same strength. But she quickly learned to get up and down stairs by lifting up this weaker leg. For larger flights of stairs, we carried her up, but she didn’t complain. So if we need to communicate differently due to our deafness. so what? Wear the damn hearing aid, use the FM system, stop complaining and get on with participating in life.
- Be Sure to Say “I Love You”. Ok, Amie can’t speak, but she can sure communicate her thoughts. She always ran up to my wife, son, or myself with her tail wagging and gave us kisses. Every single day! You never get bored of being reminded that you are loved.