I knew that this month’s column would be both difficult and easy to write. Easy because the content came to mind quickly; difficult because I dreaded the task. Writing this column would mean that a chapter of my life had ended.

As the publisher of Counseling Today and your CEO, I appreciate the honor of communicating my thoughts, perceptions and updates with you each month. I try to share what might help you, personally or professionally. As we prepare to close out 2013, I wanted to write about something that had great impact on me. I thought long and hard about the appropriateness of my writing this column. Ultimately, I decided to move forward and share it with you.

There are times when we realize that the simplest of life’s pleasures, or even things that we take for granted, result in the most profound discoveries. In this case, I am referring to the impact that a beloved individual — a hairy blond who stood 3 feet tall, loved snacks and was sometimes stubborn — had on my life. For almost 12 years, my family included a yellow Labrador named Oly.

OlyFrom the small, scared little ball of yellow fur that we brought home in 2002, Oly grew into a confident, friendly, people loving, always-there-for-you, 100-pound pal. Upon hearing of his recent death, friends referred to Oly as the “mayor” and “ambassador” of the neighborhood. He was the kind of dog that even those who weren’t “dog people” came to love. He introduced me to more people than I ever could have imagined knowing. Oly was a connector of people.

Although I miss him terribly, I am thankful for what I learned from Oly. Regardless of our degrees, certifications or scholarly endeavors, we must remain open to continuing to learn. Here are some of the lessons I picked up from Oly.

  • When you can’t make it up the stairs anymore, sleep at the bottom of the steps. That way, you’ll be the first thing other members of the family see when they come down in the morning.
  • If you want to get in the car only from the left side and exit only from the right side, that just makes you unique and memorable.
  • If you stare at the couch long enough, someone will eventually give you a lift onto your special spot.
  • If there is something special you like (let’s say … discovering grimy tennis balls), then be the best at it. It isn’t about keeping the ball; it’s about the joy inherent in finding it.
  • Always know the importance of getting and giving kisses.
  • Diversity and inclusion are key. Play with others who are bigger, smaller, older or younger than you, whether they have four legs or two.
  • Napping is a good thing — whenever, wherever. Just do it when the mood strikes. You’ll feel better after a few good winks.
  • Cookies and cheese are always good things. They help compensate for the onslaught of getting older and being less mobile.
  • Let people know you like belly rubs. It makes both you and them feel good.
  • It is probably better not to swallow a sock.
  • Don’t worry about the size of the stick if you want it. Bring it home no matter how big it is and how ridiculous you might look.
  • Welcome people with a wag of the tail. For that matter, even allow your whole body to go wiggle-waggle. Show your joy, appreciation and contentment.
  • Let little kids sit on you, lie on you and give you lots of hugs. They’ll love it, and so will you.
  • If something upsets your stomach, listen to those who prevent you from eating it — even if it would be really tasty.
  • Plowing into a big pile of leaves or snow is a very good thing, no matter how old (or young) you are.
  • Although your world might get smaller due to physical limitations, don’t let that stop you from making the most out of where you are still able to go — even if it takes much longer to get there than it previously did.
  • Be pure in your intentions, whether that involves grabbing the laundry and running through the house, barking for a treat, resting your head on a friend or just plopping down and taking in the scents and beauty of life.
  • Enjoy every moment of a walk because it really isn’t about finishing but rather being “in” the journey.

When Oly first came into my life more than a decade ago, I had the audacity to believe that I was going to teach him things. In actuality, it was I who learned from him. We expect to receive guidance or knowledge from some; then there are those who surprise us with their purity, wisdom and love. As we close out the year, let’s all take a moment to look back and think about the things for which we can be thankful. I know I will as I say, “So long, old friend.”

As always, I look forward to your comments, questions and thoughts. Feel free to contact me at 800.347.6647 ext. 231 or via email at ryep@counseling.org. You can also follow me on Twitter: @RichYep.

Be well.


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