Life Lessons From Johnnie

Living with Johnnie for ten weeks taught us more about life than we could have ever imagined. It’s crazy how dogs can teach us humans such great lessons completely unintentionally just by being their present-minded little canine selves. These are some of the best lessons Johnnie Cash left for us:

1.  Live in the moment.

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2. Be cute enough that you can get away with anything.

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3. Never lose your desire for adventure and discovering new things.

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4. Nothing is so important that you can’t spend a few hours in the sun.

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5.  Try to find someone to share the things you love with.

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6. Making sure you get enough sleep should be a top priority.

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7. Look for the positive in everything.

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8.  Be sure to show your loved ones how much they mean to you.

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Mom01photo 5 photo 4 3photo 5 2photo 49. When in doubt, grab a toy (or the closest resemblance to one. . . ).

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10. You might miss your goal the first time, but don’t give up because one of these times you will make it.

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Dear Johnnie

After doing this fostering thing for about a year and a half now, I’ve become a firm believer in the idea that “everything happens for a reason.” Each of my foster dogs found their way into my life for what ended up seeming like a pretty obvious reason, and, after reflecting on it since you left, your situation is no different.

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The puzzle pieces for how you ended up with me can be put together pretty easily. After you arrived at the shelter in September, we continued to cross paths. I don’t often spend time one-on-one with a specific shelter dog as much as I did with you. Remember how I dressed you up and took your picture for our October e-newsletter? And then how I brought you on tv with me not once but twice? It seemed like we were always ending up with each other for one reason or another. So because I knew you so well, I paid attention to what the buzz was about you.

This leads me to the why you ended up with me. This was your doing. You had reached your limit. Not a limit set by any one person, but by your own little brain. The kennel was too much for you. For five months you teetered on the edge of rambunctious in a teenage puppy way and rambunctious in an unsafe, unhealthy way. By the end of January, it was clear you weren’t happy and that if it went on much longer like this, your own health and well-being would need to be seriously thought about. When I took you to that adoption event in late January and watched the calm sparkle return to your eye, I knew I had to give you the chance to get back to the dog you were without all the stress of a shelter.

This photo was taken at the adoption event where I decided you were mine.

This photo was taken at the adoption event where I decided you were coming home with me.

The why you ended up with me continued to make itself incredibly obvious as you settled in and became a part of our family. I say “our” family because you bonded in your own way with each and every one of us that you lived with. Having you around actually brought us all together. It was a team effort, helping you learn to be a family dog again. Sometimes it was difficult, but at the end of the day when you would bounce around the kitchen with your squeaky toy as we all made dinner, we couldn’t help but laugh at you and, more importantly, fall in love with you. In addition – like this blog made pretty clear – you, foster dad and I became quite the little family unit. That dynamic was actually a new one for us, but I soaked up every minute of it. We knew it wasn’t the right time for us to bring a dog into our lives, but pretending that you were ours for a little while was a nice privilege.

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I think the final why that I will take away most from our time together is how much I learned from you about training. I can read books and articles and attend seminars as much as I want – but nothing compares to trying it and seeing it work in real life. I was your mentor, showing and teaching you how to make good decisions, and you were my partner, helping me learn how to improve my communication. You showed me what can be accomplished with force-free, reward based training and how much a dog can blossom when you bring trust and confidence into a relationship. An energetic, misunderstood shelter dog like you was exactly what I needed at this point in my life – you changed my opinions, my outlook and, honestly, probably my career path (!).

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So while because of all the whys it was hard to let you go, I know that everything happens for a reason and that you were 100% meant to move on to your new (amazing!) family. I’m selfishly jealous of them that they now get to be the ones who wake up to your adorable sleepy face, that they get to take you on hiking adventures, that they’ll perfect your skills at being an awesome family dog and that they’ll be the ones to watch you grow old. I would love to be the lucky one who shares those moments with you, but I was put here not to be your final stop, but to be a stepping stone for you to find the happiness of a forever family.

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I haven’t yet learned how to make one of those adorable photo slideshows to music, so instead I will just include a song with lyrics that I think sum up perfectly how I feel about you leaving: “I’ll love you long after you’re gone.”

We’ll miss you, Johnnie Cash. Thanks for so much sunshine and laughter!

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