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Life lessons from my dog, Ella

I’ve written about my dogs, Ella and Mala, before and have shared some pearls of wisdom that I’ve picked up from them over the years. As I prepare to say goodbye to my sweet Ella, who is growing weary of her battle with degenerative myelopathy (DM), I wanted to share my favorite lessons that she has taught me.

  • Set your sights on the goal, but take time to enjoy the journey. From the beginning, Ella loved hiking. But despite being eager to summit, she always took her time to stop and enjoy the views along the way. She reminded me to appreciate the process of working towards my goals.

  • Live in the moment, and be in awe of the world around you. While Ella wasn't super happy about sleeping in a tent, there were other aspects of camping and road trips that she appreciated - like watching the sun set over the lake, going for hikes in wild places, and experiencing the natural world in destinations like Lake Powell, the Grand Canyon, and Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun road.

  • Get plenty of sleep and stretch when you rise. When the day is over, Ella loves heading to her bed. She snores the night away, and when she still could, she would stretch upon waking. Ella also enjoyed doing neck stretches while sitting in the lawn chair in the back yard.

  • Trust your instincts. According to Ella - if a dog or person doesn't seem friendly, approach with caution. If a storm is coming, seek shelter. Cats have claws, so if one hisses at you, hide under the bed (even if it's just a kitten).

  • If you want something, keep at it until you get it. Unfortunately for Ella, sometimes she managed to get things that weren't good for her. Like the time she unzipped a backpack to get a full bag of chocolate-covered raisins, or opened a drawer to find the box of protein bars that were hidden there.

  • Be yourself without apology. We're all unique and special, and don’t need to modify who we are just to make others comfortable. Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Ella knows exactly who she is, and no one is going to change her.

  • You're never too old to learn new tricks. Ella was eight years old when she started catching things that you tossed her way. She started paddle boarding with me when she was almost 11 years old, and still joins me out on the water to this day. When she stopped being able to use her back right leg due to the DM, she started using her Walkin' Wheels to go for walks.

Ella and I have spent over 15 wonderful years together, so we have a lot of memories! She has been my side-kick through life, and we've enjoyed many adventures.

I will forever cherish the unconditional love that she has given me, and will never forget her spunk and determination. This post doesn't even come close to expressing how much Ella means to me, but I hope these lessons give you a glimpse into ways she has touched my life, and made me a better person for having been lucky enough for fate to bring us together.

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