Last January, Adam and I adopted a gorgeous little Chesapeake Bay retriever/golden retriever blend* from Decatur Animal Services. Tessie's a rambunctious, affectionate dog who will bounce up and down next to you if she's excited, and loves playing fetch. She loves people, but will act out to test her boundaries.
As I've said before, she's taught me some important lessons about life -- and about writing. Tessie's older now, and as she's matured, she's taught me more about how to value the important things in life.
Go after big challenges. Tessie tries to pick up sticks that are longer than she is every time we go for a walk. If given the chance, she'll lay down and chew them into bite-sized pieces. Like sticks, challenges can be broken into tiny, manageable steps until it's doable. But you won't know that until you face it, pick it up, and carry it around for a while.
Show your people you love them. Retrievers are some of the most loving animals, and want to please you above all else. They will chew up your stuff, and maybe even some of your favorite stuff, but you'll forgive them for it. Even if you discipline them, they'll still want to cuddle later. People make intentional and unintentional mistakes every day. Love them anyways.
Don't forget to play. Everyone needs some time with friends to let off steam. Have fun. Make memories. Be silly.
Friends sit. There's a lot to say for just being present. Sometimes, it's not possible or appropriate to say anything at all, and being there can say more than anything. Your human friends might not pet you, but being there can be as comforting as petting your dog.
Everybody messes up. One night, Adam and I came home to a puppy that had moved an unopened bottle of Noah's Mill bourbon and chewed through the wax and cork. She had spilled most of the whiskey and lapped up a bit of it, and she was tipsy. I was pissed, but since we didn't know how much she'd drunk, I was more worried. We stayed up with her for a while to make sure she was drinking water, had food, and was OK. I checked on her a couple times during the night, and we took her running the next day. Friends, coworkers, family -- everybody makes mistakes.
Be unafraid. Even if a bigger (or more self-important) dog is in your face, it doesn't mean that you won't prevail. Stick to your guns, and don't let anyone push you into doing something that makes you ethically or professionally uncomfortable.
*That was the pound's best guess to her lineage. She was a stray, so they can't say for certain.