It’s not often I catch happy trends on social media, so when I opened Twitter this morning and saw the top trend was #NationalDogDay I immediately clicked through. As I scrolled down the feed of dog pictures and saw people at their happiest moments hugged up with their pets, it reminded me of the profound impact dogs have had on me. From pure joy, to unconditional acceptance, to teaching me some of life’s most valuable lessons, dogs have been constant companions and loyal guides for me from the start. It also reminded me of Old Sammy and how much I miss having him around. He was a brilliant beagle that showed up on our doorstep in pretty bad shape 9 years ago. He evolved into Onsite’s resident therapy dog and changed more lives than I can count. We lost him last year, and I looked up a journal entry from our last day together. The story brought back special memories, and #NationalDogDay felt like the right time to share it.

Celebrate the animals in your life past and present the way they celebrated you. This practice has changed me for the better and if you need some light or have some light to give consider adopting or rescuing a dog. I promise they will leave you with more love than you started with. Here is Sammy’s last day:

My sidekick, Sammy, worked his last shift yesterday. He spent time offering love to our guests and said some goodbyes before taking me on our last walk around the property. It was a walk we must have taken over a thousand times. We checked the horses, checked on the guests, checked on the other dogs and checked a few briar patches for any trespassing rabbits. He could only go about 20 yards before needing a break but made it clear he did not want to be carried. This was his place and what he lived to do.

When we circled around the last cabin, he picked up a scent. His old ears perked up and he stood tall ready for pursuit. He darted forward a few feet before losing his balance and falling sideways. I was quick to try and help him, but he didn’t have time for that. He regained his composure, sat up with intense focus, and looked over to his interns, Dakota, Moose, & Jesse, directing them towards the brush to investigate on his behalf. Off they went as the two of us sat on the rain soaked grass and watched with a tired excitement. He sat proud like a shepherd tending to his flock. I got the sense he was reflecting on when the other dogs might conclude it would never be about catching anything that brought much meaning. It was about the pursuit.

He was weak and we had wondered a bit too far for his old body to make it back, so I picked him up and gave him a lift to the halfway point. On the last stretch towards home, I noticed how the both of us began to walk with a peaceful content. A grin broke through my tears as I paid tribute to all the memories we shared, the lives he’s touched and how he turned his second chance at life into a life well lived. We made it back to his favorite old tree where he crawled up on my lap and took his last breath.

Following a beautiful ceremony with staff and guests, I couldn’t help but think that heaven just added some serious talent to its guardian angel roster and that the rabbits should be on guard. He mastered the art of greeting people and never missed his opportunity. Saying goodbye to one who delivers my favorite hello is hard. I guess his final lesson was teaching me that goodbyes are as important and sacred as hellos.

Today, I miss my old friend but am grateful that he left me with the wisdom of knowing that leading is about loving, greeting is about caring and what we all need is acceptance