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My Red-haired Companion
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This one is difficult to pull off for us mere humans, for it naturally builds on the first two lessons. In order to love freely, you must be present, in the moment, and live without fear of being hurt. Dogs don’t fear rejection because they don’t see themselves reflected in someone else. Lucky for them, they naturally give and receive without shame, without judgment. From this starting point of untainted vulnerability, the possibility of accepting others as they are opens up the probability of accepting their love for you. Just imagine.

 

For most of my adult life, I struggled with whether I could be a good father. My concerns mostly stem from a dearth of suitable role models in this arena. I have always wondered if I could put aside my selfish tendencies and open my heart. When I think of how I loved that dog, even when she was not so lovable, a picture starts to form for me. For the past 17 years, I manipulated my life around hers. Her schedule dictated my own, sometimes to the detriment of career or missed personal opportunities. I put her primary needs in front of my own. Even in those anguishing months leading to my decision to end her life, I acted with her well-being in the foreground. Perhaps, she was a parenthood testing ground of sorts. I guess time will tell.

 

Ellie, my red-haired companion, is gone now. And I miss her terribly. I miss our routines. I miss her bold predictability. The photos or her collar and leash laid out on my desk are never comfort enough. When she left my world, though, I felt a certain sense of calm. Maybe I knew she was in a better place. Or maybe I knew I’d be okay because of what she had left with me.

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