By Joe Rector

Try to recall the countless hours involved in training small children to do certain things. Remember how difficult it was to have a child simply sit down and complete his business on the toilet? When those little ones accomplished such a feat, we were ecstatic. Little did we know how difficult some of the other training would be in their later lives, and on occasions, we moms and dads would have welcomed dirty diapers back into our lives in place of the problems we faced with teenaged children. At the same time, think about how much energy we parents spent in trying to teach our children the lessons of life. Just the thoughts of those days tire me.

What might come as a revelation to many folks is that we, as adults, are trained in much the same way. However, our teachers are our pets. I like cats but don’t own any since Amy is highly allergic to them. We have had dogs, and those four-legged creatures have trained me. It’s been difficult, but my canines have kept plugging away until I learned the ropes.

Snoop was my Jack Russell Terrier. He and I were inseparable for 13 years. Over that period of time, he taught me how to rehab myself after serious neck and back surgeries. The last thing I wanted to do was walk after those operations. However, a JRT must have exercise to calm its overly energetic body. Snoop started me out walking to the end of the driveway and back. Little by little, he coaxed me into walking down the street until we were able to complete the walk through our neighborhood that had before surgery been our daily walks.

Snoop also helped me recover. Each afternoon at 2:00 p.m., he’d come and sit at the foot of the recliner I slept in. He waited for me to lift the leg rest and then hopped up and stood until I put a pillow across my lap. Then he lay down, and for the next two hours, we slept. He woke me up with the accuracy of an alarm clock.

Sadie came to us as a rescue dog about six years ago. Her personality is entirely different. She’s a loving, laid-back dog. She must be kept on a leash because if a rabbit is anywhere around, she’s sprints as she runs it. We’ve hunted her down half a dozen times when she tricked us into believing she was trained to stay.

If I’m in bed, Sadie walks to the head of the bed and begins licking my ear. If I cover up, she lays her 45-pound body across me and growls lowly. Again, slow reactions on my part lead to that bark, so I’m usually up and headed to the door before that loud demand occurs.

Sadie’s life lessons are much more impactful. One deals with love. This part Border Collie, part Schnauzer animal loves everyone. She has a gentleness that captures the hearts of anyone who comes up to her. Sadie doesn’t judge. She loves those who are kind to her, regardless of political affiliation, religious beliefs, or sexual identity. She never discriminates based on gender or race. All she wants it to love and be loved. Her beautiful face and piercing brown eyes draw people in, and her openness toward them helps to drop all defenses.

Saide also teaches contentment. She can be happy anywhere. Sometimes we go looking for her and discover her asleep in her crate, the door still standing wide open. She’s a traveler who can quickly get comfortable in the back seat as we drive toward Nashville or other places.

Her happiest moments are those spent with the ones she loves. Sadie and Amy are bed buddies. Each morning, Amy scans the paper while Saide lies curled up in a ball at her side. She shares a poolside lounge chair with Amy. When she’s had enough of the day, this pup jumps on the couch and sticks her nose between my lower legs. That’s the signal for me to raise the recliner so that she can curl up on the end and pass out.

I loved Snoop and thought my life would always have an empty spot when he passed. Sadie came to us and filled that spot. She is a gift from above and came at a time when such a loving creature was badly needed by both Amy and me. Someday, she’ll leave this life, and I’m sure that will be because God has loaned her to us long enough. I also know that both these dogs have had major impacts on the lives they have touched. Maybe, if I can make it to heaven, they both will come running to greet me upon my arrival.