A Lesson on Love, From the Dog: How Pacer has Taught Me to Love Unconditionally


This is actually from my old blog and is about 4 years old.  However, it seemed fitting to share again on this blog.

[I’ve written other blogs previously on lessons we learn for dogs, but I believe the greatest lesson these four-legged and furry animals (or should I say sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, grand dogs, etc.?) teach us is about love, and what it truly means to love.]

“Dear God, please help me to love myself as Pacer loves me.”

I wrote these words in my journal, not very long ago.

I was in the middle of reading Marianne Williamson’s “Return to Love” and I realized that I never truly thought about what it meant to love. I also realized then when I did love, it was often with conditional terms. “I love him, but not when he does that.” “I love her, but I can’t stand it when she’s acts like that.” Etc. Etc. But never were the terms of conditional love truer as when it came to loving myself.

My self-love and self-worth came with what I succeeded in, and often not succeeded in. At one point in my life this dealt with weight, grades, and basketball. More recently it dealt with my running times, job(s), and whether or not I thought I was doing anything worthwhile/making a difference in the world.

In other words, everything depended on the “if”. I only loved myself “if” I did this, I only loved myself “if” I achieved that.

Of course, I knew that kind of thinking wasn’t healthy. I tried to stray away from those thoughts. It helped a bit when I reminded myself that my family and friends loved me regardless.

However, it was until I thought about Pacer that I truly understood what it meant to love, and to love unconditionally.

With her, we fell onto that path naturally. From the moment she laid on my lap as we drove her home from North Carolina, our relationship was pure love, and that love went both ways. In fact, I love her so much, where I have nearly been in tears by just the thought of something bad happening to her.

I loved her despite the fact that on that trip home, she threw up in my lap.

I loved even though as a puppy, she nearly drove me insane.

I loved her even when she chewed my good running socks and I chased her for 20 minutes around the house, finally giving up in tears. And still when I let her outside to do her thing then wouldn’t come in back in, making me later for work, I still loved her.

Then there was the time I left the homemade veggie burgers on the counter, which she grabbed, ran, and devoured.

Image may contain: 1 person, snow and outdoor
Who chewed that?  Not me!

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She also has a protective and aggressive side, common I later learned, in herding dogs. With that, she bit someone (not a full on bit, but more of a bite you would give a sheep to get them in a circle). Instead of being mad at her, I cried at the thought of someone trying to take her away from me. (I decided a would run away with her before that would ever happen.)

She has surely cost us a small fortune, especially with “doggy boot camp”. (Once we had workers at our house, and I came home to my house set-up like a barricade…We forgot to put Pacer in her “place” and the workers shunned her off with plastic lids, closing doors, and putting couches in doorways. When I got through, Pacer was just sitting at the top of the staircase looking at me.)

Now, at 2 years old, things are much better, but she is still mischievous, rebellious, and full of energy.

For example, a few months ago “someone” left the garage open (which we never do) and she chewed my new pair of running shoes. (That “someone”, despite owning a running store, has still not yet gotten me a new pair.)

Speaking of running, I probably waste half of my energy on the trail telling her “No!”, “Pacer, back!” and “Leave it! (Squirrels are our friends, not food)”. And yet, she is still my favorite running partner.

Each time I get upset with her, the anger subsides minutes later. I forgive her, without even thinking about forgiving her.

I love her so much that any feeling of anger melts away. Lesson: Love is the only thing that matters, and should take precedence over everything else. (Reminder to self: Keep this in mind during next “difference of views”)

I love her, simply because she is my Pacer.

Thinking about it more, I realized she loves me unconditionally as well.

Never once when she was a puppy and I put her in her crate did she shun me when I came back home. I was, and still am, greeted with a wagging nub (her tail was docked) and much licking.

She loves me even when I accidently step on her paw.

And last year, when I accidently cut the skin on her ear while trying to get a knot out of her fur, she still forgave me (actually, it took me much longer to forgive myself.)

She loves me despite what job I have, if I had a bad day, made a mistake, and…despite how fast I run (however, she does prefer fast).

She simply doesn’t care about all those exterior things… She just loves me because, well, I am me.

And that’s enough.

A few months ago I wrote about my mom’s dog, Annabell, who has an incurable disease affecting her kidneys, causing her to piddle everywhere. Still, she is as energetic and playful as ever, plus the normal puppy mischief. My mom always tells everyone “all she wants it to be loved”.

That is so true!

And it’s true with all dogs.

Love is at the very essence of their being. And isn’t it so with us too? I think so.

Because of Pacer, I am learning what unconditional love is, and to bypass any imperfections in others, and in myself. (Isn’t perfect boring anyway?!?) It is definitely not easy. It takes practice.

But, it is worth it.

Even despite those chewed up $100 pair of shoes.

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