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    Musing: Old Dog Lesson

    This isn’t the Monday Musing I planned. In fact, I had something else already written and ready to go. But as I stood outside on a frosty Christmas morning, I realized I needed to explain a lesson I learned from an old dog instead.

    The original musing

    My original post focused on my annual planning process, since I’m in the midst of goal setting for 2023. It quoted three books I’ve recently read: Quit: The Power of Knowing When To Walk Away by Annie Duke; Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman; and The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future by Ryder Carroll.

    The gist of my post was to schedule what is truly important, not just what is productive.

    All I needed to do was hit publish.

    A cold morning

    Like much of the rest of the U.S. and Canada, we’ve had some quite frigid weather the last few days. When I woke up Saturday morning, it was -2º F, so the positive 11º temperature Christmas morning seemed almost balmy.


    Our eldest dog, Frankie, goes out to the yard first. He’s lived with us for eleven years, and was probably two or three when we adopted him, so he certainly qualifies as elderly.

    One of those “perks” of age is a bladder that needs more frequent attention. He appreciates the ability to take care of matters privately while the younger dogs sleep.

    Another consequence of age is the time it takes our joints and muscles to be ready for the day. Typically, Frankie is efficient in his early yard time, often going out and coming back inside within only a few minutes.

    As I stood outside with him on Christmas morning, though, a scent of a rabbit who had passed earlier caught his attention. He wandered around the yard sniffing as I shivered and waited. He examined the fence, peered through the cracks at the forest beyond, and circled the perimeter back toward the house. Thinking he was ready to go inside for the warmth, I headed to the door.

    Except he wasn’t ready. He sat in the frosty grass, raised his snout high in the air, and inhaled deep. Did he catch the scent of deer in the trees? Perhaps a black bear rustling in its den? An owl shifting in its nest?

    I had no idea, but I was cold and wanted to rush inside. When I went to retrieve him, he turned his head to me. I could just see his brown eyes in the gloom of the pre-dawn light.

    His request was simple.

    What’s the rush?

    At that moment, in the peace and quiet of a Christmas morning, I realized how standing in that yard with an old dog was the most important thing I could be doing.

    How many more sunrises will he and I share? I hope many and point to his lack of health issues for comfort, but memento mori floated through my brain. We can’t make time—we can only take time. At that moment, he wanted me to stand with him and enjoy our time.

    And so, I placed my hand on his head, rubbed his ears, and waited by his side.


    My original post was going to talk about focusing on what is truly important with intentionality. We too often work to be productive, when often the best use of our time is anything but.

    As an example, I highlighted our twice-daily family walks. It’s partially about exercise and getting the dogs’ energy burned off, but it’s mostly about connection time. No ear buds or telephones are used. Instead, we simply talk to each other. We jokingly refer to it as solving the world’s problems because the topics range but are mostly the mundane parts of life.

    Nothing is more important than that connection. It is my top priority in my daily calendar, and everything else gets scheduled around it. It’s an intentional use of time.

    Embrace the moments

    But Frankie reminded me of something else. Every so often, those great moments happen when you least expect them—unscheduled and unplanned. Standing in a frozen yard with my hand resting on an old dog’s head was the best thing I could do. We watched the sun peek over the horizon.

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    On The Website This Week

    Spectacular Vernacular Word of the Week: Did you know those mangled lyrics you misheard are called mondegreens?

    Last chance to take this month’s survey on being a morning or evening person. The results will be published next month. While you wait, you can see what my readers thought about fruitcake in last month’s survey results.

    Gratuitous Dog Photo: Frankie Suave

    Frankie Suave - an old dog lesson
    Frankie Suave

    The subject of today’s Monday Musing, Frankie Suave, in his usual pose supervising my writing time.

    Until Next Monday

    Embrace those important moments and don’t let them slip by.

    See you next Monday in 2023!

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    1. JEAN BURKHARDT on December 26, 2022 at 6:51 am

      Oh Hu-Dad-I have tears in my eyes. What a beautiful post about Frankie Suave. My oldest dog is about 11 but has mobility issues too and he is usually in and out quickly for his yard breaks. BUT every once in a while there is that moment like you spoke about-when I SEE the younger version of our boy. I agree we need to make time because we just never know how much of it we have with those we love.

      LOVE your posts!!!

    2. mary michaud on December 26, 2022 at 7:47 am

      this is undoubtedly the most beautiful piece you have written, thank you. It brought back my time with my Rocky, who I had to part with eatlier this year. He was 13/14 years old, estimated to be 2 years old when he rescued me. The eyes of an old dog tell a story; and Frankie’s eyes reminded me of Rocky. Thank you for sharing your uplifting, wonderful thoughts with us. Like Jean Burkhardt, I had tears in my eyes. I am looking for a new pup to love, the right one will come along

    3. Pat and Rambo on December 26, 2022 at 10:45 am

      I have tears in my eyes after reading this. It reminded me of sitting out with my sweet Rebel and enjoying our time together. When he was younger, he enjoyed spending time by himself outside, inside he was always by my side. But now when he was older, he wanted company outside. After 13 years and 1 month I had to say goodbye to him in July and I look back on our times watching the cars, people and squirrels together with good memories. I am making new memories with my rescued 6-year-old Siberian. Those times are so precious. Thanks for sharing your experience with Frankie.

    4. Patty Markiewicz on December 26, 2022 at 1:05 pm

      You said it so well, there is nothing like hanging out with an old dog. Zappa will be 15 next week. Almost every night we walk around the yard, me following and stopping with him. It is a completion of some sort for me and him for the day. Then we have our few moments of standing together. I miss it terribly when I don’t take that walk with him. Dog lives are way to short. Some day I won’t have a choice whether to go outside or not…thank you for sharing. ♥

    5. Juno's mom on December 26, 2022 at 1:20 pm

      I agree with Mary. The spontaneous thoughts that come to us in moments of quiet stillness are clarifying, almost meditative. I hope Frankie is with you for a long time to come.

      (I do feel compelled to mention something I’ve recommended to quite a few people who have dogs with joint & mobility issues and that is green lipped mussel powder. I had Juno on it for years and she never had any symptoms of arthritis. Amazon has it. It really does make a difference.)

    6. Debbie & Miss Ruby on December 26, 2022 at 2:30 pm

      Old dogs are so easy to love. My girl is at least 11 and still acts like a youngster when the weather is cold. I treasure every moment with her. She still insists on staying outside in 4 degree days. Thanks you for this heart felt story.

    7. chris on December 26, 2022 at 2:50 pm

      I had tears too. But I thought you had said in an earlier Musing that the walks were about getting the miles logged in. When I had read that post, I had to admit I was disappointed as I have always felt that dogs (because they do have such short lives and some shorter than others because of sickness or not being well) that the walks should revolve around what the dog wants. I have acreage and I get my exercise by allowing my dog to dictate where they would like to go (within limits such as they are not allowed to chase animals or harass them) and how far. I have found that my walks are so enjoyable when my dogs are happy. And I take four walks a day because I have two dogs that have to be separated so I walk them twice a day separate from each other.

    8. Cheryl Seybert on December 26, 2022 at 5:36 pm

      Frankie is not only Sauve but Smart!! Just wanted Hu-Dad to stop and enjoy the time for reflection & erm freezing his tail off !!?? Just look into his eyes; he has the kindest eyes I’ve ever seen!! Happy New Year to you your life partner and the boys!!???

    9. Deborah Rolman on December 27, 2022 at 12:03 am

      Like so many others mentioned, this brought tears to my eyes. I’m so glad you took the time to stand with sweet Frankie. I don’t have dogs, just one very spoiled cat. When Bella was a kitten, we spent a lot of time on the balcony and often got to see neighbors taking their dogs out for walks and/or potty breaks. At some point. Bella decided she needed to go outside too. The frequency and length of our walks has always been unpredictable. I just leave it up to her. Now that she is 15 years old, they are becoming more infrequent, and I recently realized that the time will come when they are a thing of the past. That realization has made me more thankful for the times that she is at the door eagerly waiting when I get home from work.
      Happy New Year to you and your family!

    10. Ann Foose on December 27, 2022 at 1:18 pm

      If your post hadn’t made me cry, all the comments from the others would have. I lost my oldest corgi in June, and the remaining one is 14. Thank you all for reminding me that I need to show her how much I love her, every day.

    11. Tracy on December 27, 2022 at 7:11 pm

      Lovely and touching. One of my favorites that you have written.

    12. HokiePack on December 27, 2022 at 7:20 pm

      Oh my ! What a beautiful tribute to Frankie and us old dogs. I’m glad you shared that special moment. As I think about all the members of the HokiePack we have lost I mourn and would love one more special time. Long live Frankie & the memories you continue to make ❤️

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