???????????????????????????????Our Old English sheepdog came to us nine years ago at age nine weeks. Our bond was instant.

He’s been my best friend and trusty companion ever since. He’s constantly by my side. Sleeping in the keyhole of my desk does get a bit crowded sometimes. He didn’t stay eleven pounds for very long.toby under desk

When Toby was five, Buster joined our family. (He’s stayed at eleven pounds.)buster arrives

We inherited the little Maltese from my daughter and, since the dogs had spent time together at family gatherings, we didn’t have issues when Buster came to live with us permanently.

Well, not major issues. There is the problem of rawhide bones.

Toby will NOT share and Buster constantly steals the well-chewed and moist pieces. If Toby catches him, there’s gnarling and snapping, but never ever any contact. It’s as though Toby knows he could hurt the little dog.

When Toby realizes a bone has been stolen, he asks me to return his property. (Yep, Toby and I talk to one another.)

Then Buster, with his Napoleonic complex, goes after his much bigger brother as though to eat him alive…again Toby ignores him and settles with his repossessed bone.

Buster and Toby have bonded and rely on one another after four years. toby and busterWatching the two dogs together has taught me some important lessons.

Be Loyal (but not to a fault)

Dogs are loyal. That’s what they do, who they are. We’ve all seen the pictures and read stories like the heartwarming story of the Labrador Retriever who famously laid down next to the coffin of his US soldier human.

Loyalty can be a huge asset, but my canine boys have taught me blind loyalty is foolish.

Walking is our ritual. Three times a day we hike around the area. I always do the early morning sunrise walk, but if I’m on deadline or absorbed in writing, those noontime and evening walks aren’t going to happen. They might prefer my company, but necessity dictates they have to go with whoever is available.

That can happen in our human lives too. Loyalty is definitely an asset, but often we have to do what it takes to get the job done.

Trust your instincts.

I see this principle often when I walk the dogs. Both will react if they deem someone or some animal we meet along our way as threatening.

Toby is allowed to determine our routes. Sometimes we go the short way, sometimes we walk for five miles, and sometimes we don’t leave the porch.

I trust him. There might be a bear or coyote lurking that I can’t see.

In life, we have to trust instincts too. Sure, it’s important to take time to listen to others’ input. But in the end, we should heed our gut instincts.

Know what you want and be super persistent about securing it.

Dogs know persistence pays.

Consider the last time your dog sat beside you through an entire meal, gazing up with Bambi eyes? Did you cave and toss a bite, impressed by his determination and patience?

Buster and Toby recline by my chair at mealtime like bookends. One on my left, one on my right. They don’t beg unless ice cream or pizza is involved. Then Toby sits in that perfect sit he never seemed to manage in dog obedience class and Buster, not to be ignored, jumps up on the edge of my chair.

I cave.

The scenario reminds me how very, very important dogged persistence can be. We should not give up on our goals.

There might be setbacks or defeats. Poor Toby and Buster don’t always get to lick the ice cream bowl especially if company’s here. Seeing a dog lick a bowl humans use tends to freak some people out. But hey, that’s what the sani-wash option on the dishwasher is for.

Even if we fail, persistence helps us learn what to do better next time or what techniques or approaches work, and what don’t.

Last, and probably the most significant, thing…

Go outside and play.

Writing is a solitary occupation. I tend to spend hour upon hour at my laptop. For Toby and Buster, it’s boring.

With technology penetrating every portion of our lives and jobs, it’s easy to be online and working 24-7. We forget the importance of refreshing our minds and body.

After a while, Toby will nudge my elbow and Buster will whine – not a pretty sound or sight, but effective – until I give up and push away from the computer, iPad, or iPhone.

I never regret spending time with them. I return renewed and I’m not imagining the effect research suggests exercise can actually improve productivity.

What about you do you have a trusted canine companion? What lessons have you learned from your dog?