Life Lessons I Learned From My Dog

If only we as humans could live our lives in such a pure state as my beloved mongrel, Trout.

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Lessons my dog taught me
Photo: Courtesy of Kelsy Gibos

Packing seven years into a single trip around the sun

Dogs are the best. There is always an abundance of affection (and dog hair), enthusiasm, loyalty, and unassuming, never-ending and ever-enduring love when we invite these beasts into our homes and our beds. There’s a trade-off, though: We know when we bring their fuzzy little faces into our lives that inevitably we will outlive them. It is such an unfairness in life that they simply do not live as long as we do. At least we can take comfort in the fact that they never take a single moment for granted, which is important when you think they have to cram the equivalent of seven years’ worth of living into a single calendar year.

This is a story about how much one can cram into every single moment of a dog’s life. This dog was my dog Trout, an adventure mongrel whose story I feel I need to share as a reminder to live every single moment, as you just never know when it might be your last.

My husband Travis and I adopted Trout and her brother Twigs in March 2011 after they were dumped at a pound near Sydney, Australia. They were about four months old, riddled with fleas and worms, and left to their own fate with the animal control system.

Our adventures started immediately. We dragged the pups that weekend to the infamous Man From Snowy River Bush Festival, a celebration of Australian horsemanship where the pups learned about horse smells, slept on old boots and navigated crowds of people. For the next three years, we toured Australia by car, kayak, canoe and train, always with our pups in tow. Trout swam off white sand beaches, touched noses with a red-bellied black snake, competed in dogsled and skijor competitions, floated on a steamboat, kayaked hidden coves, climbed the highest mountain peak in the state, chased kangaroos and much more.

I wish I could share all of her adventures with you—I could probably fill a book. What you need to know is that she was with me whenever there was fun to be had, full of enthusiasm, never questioning why or where we were going next. Trout simply lived in that moment and had fun as long as we were together.

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Trout's Canadian bucket list
Photo: Courtesy of Kelsy Gibos

Trout’s great Canadian bucket list

As our jobs wrapped up overseas, we planned our return to the Alberta Rockies. Of course we couldn’t leave Twigs and Trout behind, so they too were packed up with our belongings and shipped back across the Pacific. Trout took all of this in stride and found new things to chase (squirrels!), sights to see and adventures to have as soon as we were on Canadian soil.

In a twist of fate, a few months into our return to Canada, we discovered that Trout had a rare, aggressive form of kidney cancer. How unfair: She was only four years old! Instead of feeling angry or defeated, we pushed forward. Trout’s enthusiasm hadn’t changed; the only thing that mattered to her was what adventure we were on now. It took all that I had to push aside overwhelming sadness that our moments had become limited. We had a surgery to try to slow the spread, and decided to start a bucket list.

Trout truly experienced Canada in the next 2½ years that we were blessed with. She swam in the other side of the Pacific, walked on a glacier, saw the Northern Lights, was a bridesmaid at our wedding in the mountains, did an overnight canoe trip, was in a parade, recorded a song, competed in an adventure race, stood at the start line of one of the biggest sled dog races in North America…the list goes on. Just four days before we finally lost her, she competed in a skijor race near Calgary. Her pace was slow, but her spirit was as strong as always.

Everyone who met Trout knew that she was extraordinary—something so much more than “just” a dog. She came into this world to bring me happiness as an adventure buddy, as a companion and as a best friend. Her body wasn’t built to last, but she always gave us everything she had, committing to any crazy idea we would ask her to try, up to her very last days. There is so much sadness in my heart, but I wouldn’t trade it for all the happiness that dog brought me.

If only we as humans could live our lives in such a pure state as Trout did—never worrying about what happened in the past or where tomorrow might take us, and instead focusing on the moment we are living in now with the people we love; perhaps we might then find what true happiness really is.

Next, read the heartwarming story of how adopting a puppy helped one family through the pandemic.

Originally Published in Our Canada

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