Life Lessons Through The Eyes Of A Dog…John Page Burton

In the summer of 2012, I was forced to make the painful decision to put my best friend to sleep. Kamir, a 13 year old Great Pyrenees, had been my faithful companion for 9 years. I initially rescued Kamir from an animal shelter in 2003, but in retrospect a strong case could be made that he in fact rescued me. During our first two years together, I experienced the death of my father, a divorce, a business failure and a subsequent health challenge that prevented me from being able to fly on an airplane or drive a car. During this difficult period of time, many of my “friends” disappeared from my life yet Kamir remained loyal. I credit his Zen like energy and his unconditional love and slobber for keeping me in a relatively balanced state. Today my life is functioning at an all time high! I am in a wonderful relationship, have great friends, a thriving business and most importantly I feel a sense of peace. Below are some of the things that I learned during my time with Kamir.

The lessons…

*The power of unconditional love. Dogs love us regardless of our “flaws”. Kamir held no expectations of me, he never stood in judgment and he never tried to “fix” me. He simply accepted me where I was and loved me unconditionally. In return, he must have trusted that his needs would be met as well. The lesson…When we love with conditions we have effectively put a chokehold on our happiness.

*Focus on what matters. A friend of mine would often stop by to visit Kamir and treat him to a big, meaty bone. He would go to his happy place for hours on end!  He would focus on his bone, protect his bone at all costs and when he was done he would roll around, wag his tail, kick his paws into the air and smile. He was overflowing with appreciation and gratitude for having had such a wonderful experience. The lesson… I know that in the end I will be far more grateful for the people I have known and the experiences we have shared together than I will ever be for the material stuff I collected along the way. Friends and family are what matter the most.

*Embrace spontaneity. Kamir was very spontaneous and he possessed profound curiosity. Going for a short walk around the block could quickly turn into a game of chase. (This was often brought about by the sight of a cat) A specific scent could send us on an unexpected two hour journey through the woods. We live in an extremely uptight, rigid world. Our work environment is structured for a reason but I am a firm believer that our non-working time should include a high degree of spontaneous activity. This is a much healthier way to live and it affords us a constant sense of adventure. The lesson…If we truly desire to stretch and grow then it is imperative that we become as curious as we were when we were children. We must always remain in learning mode!

*Show compassion. Kamir and I shared a morning routine that involved walking through the streets of Barrio Viejo, a neighborhood in downtown Tucson, Arizona. During our walks it was not unusual to encounter homeless brothers and sisters. Because Kamir was such a unique looking dog it was easy to strike up conversations with our new friends.  Kamir rarely met a stranger’s hand he didn’t like. It was during these encounters that I began to learn about life on the streets and the numerous challenges facing these members of our community. Kamir’s introductions led to the creation of “Street Snacks”, a program providing sack lunches to homeless people residing in and around local parks. The lesson…”But for the grace of God, there go I” should be our constant reminder to show compassion for our fellow man.

*Be your authentic self. Kamir was a big dog who derived great pleasure by taking off at a dead run through the park or down the street in hot pursuit of a UPS truck. (His personal favorite) Watching him run was truly a sight to behold. His lumbering strides were goofy to say the least and his big, floppy ears reminded me of the wings on a C-130. Did he care how silly he looked? Absolutely not! The lesson…Far too many of us have a significant investment in our “looking good” programs which in turn greatly diminish our ability to live and be our authentic selves. We are well served to consistently strive to become the best version of ourselves we can be.

*Life is a game. Kamir turned everything into a game. He would often look over at me and then begin digging a hole. The moment I began heading his way, it was game on! He would race around the yard, dart by me and then go dig some more. He loved to chase the hot air balloons that often made their way over my property on Saturday mornings. I would set out after him and he would quickly turn it into a game of hide and seek as we made our way through the desert. The lesson… All of us need to have more fun! Being a grown up doesn’t mean that we have to completely grow up. Laugh, have fun, it’s good for circulation!

I miss my loyal companion and teacher. I consider it a blessing to have spent nine years with such an enlightened soul.

I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.

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