With Gratitude and Love for a Dog

It came to me that every time I love a dog, they take a piece of my heart with them. And every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with pieces of their heart. If I live long enough all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are.


Two days ago my dog, Layla, walked across the rainbow bridge to be with her momma, Lynzeebear. In her absence, I realized that for two decades I’ve been fortunate to have pets and dog(s) in my life. Our dogs, Liesel, Socks, Lynzeebear, and Layla woofed, wiggled, and wagged in our life as a family. Layla became the bridge between my old life in Columbus, Ohio, and the creation of my new life in the mountains of North Carolina. She stayed ever-present to the move from the family home to my Red Cardinal House, then to the House of Joy. She remained by my side as I grieved through all the losses, the moving away of my son, my daughter’s high school graduation, her college years and graduation, the visits with my adult children, the creation and launch of three books, the hot summer journey with a moving van, during days and nights with the trees, bunnies,  black bears, and walks on trails at Mount Mitchell and Craggy Gardens along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Layla arrived as a surprise gift for both of my children. They had been joking with me about my lack of spontaneity, which happened to be very accurate at that time. I remember thinking I’d show them how I could be spontaneous! Of course, for anyone who has planned a surprise, there’s often a number of advanced logistics to implement.

I picked up Layla during a dramatic thunderstorm of falling branches, booming thunder, rapid flashes of lightning, pounding rain. I’m grateful both children felt much surprise. Yet, delight mixed with some disappointment when Layla showed her fears with incessant fierce barking at my daughter and then-husband for about a week or so. Once Layla realized that these two people loved her, that her pack had altered, she bonded beautifully with them.

A few weeks into our routines as a family with both Lynzeebear and Layla, Prom Day of my daughter’s junior year arrived. In the late afternoon, her friends entered our home, the gathering spot before photos. The door opened and closed many times on this gorgeous day in May. Guys in tuxedos, shiny shoes, girls with their hair, make-up, jewelry, flowing, colorful beautiful dresses, high heels walked into the house along with parents wanting to take photos of their sons and daughters.

I noticed Lynzeebear began following me. Within a few moments, I wondered where Layla was.

I ran through the house looking for her and yelling her name. No Layla in sight. My son and I ran out of the house calling “Layla!” while jogging up and down streets in our neighborhood. My heart pounded as I imagined the worst, which included a phone call to the breeder, who adored Layla and trusted me to take care of her as a pet.

I returned to the house knowing that we needed to leave for the park to take photos. My daughter, her friends, and parents had gathered outside on the porch. “Mom, didn’t you find her?” my daughter asked. I shook my head. Then I heard someone shout. “There she is!!” I turned around. Proudly prancing up the driveway came Layla with “What is that!?!” in her mouth.

The colorful, coiffed gathering of people screamed, squealed, and moved quickly inside the house, closed the glass storm door behind them as they turned around staring at Layla. She carried a decomposed carcass of some kind of animal. Was it a possum, a squirrel, a groundhog? Gross, putrid. Nasty. Foul-smelling.  She dropped this prize at my feet, looked up with eyes filled with joy, tongue wagging. I scooped her up, opened the storm door as people made a wide path. I walked swiftly and placed her safely in her crate with a latch. “I don’t believe you’ll ever be a hunter, Layla.” My then-husband begrudgingly removed the carcass from the porch.

Now that that excitement passed, people walked to their vehicles to drive to the Park of Roses for photos. I climbed in the backseat of my then husband’s car with our daughter and son. My daughter’s date rode shotgun. With relief, we talked and laughed hysterically about Layla’s catch. “Stop talking about that God Damn Dog!” my then-husband roared from the driver’s seat. We continued looking at each other with twinkling eyes, shoulders, and bodies shaking with suppressed laughter.

Dogs, pets of all kinds, teach us about patience and care in this interspecies dance of love.

They become part of the rhythm and cycles of our lives inside what seems like mundane tasks, routines we do, and yet, weaved in all these subtle moments of feeding, walking, scooping poop, petting, putting a harness on their bodies, talking to them, training them, playing catch, snuggling, we learn about tiny acts of kindness. We notice the gentle nuance of being present with their facial expressions, body movements, their joy, and their pain. Pets teach us a great deal about being humane, about unconditional love and loyalty. With few words, we bond with these wonderful sentient beings, forever a gift in our experience of being alive.

May you know the joy of having a pet or of loving animals of all kinds. May you know that the daily small tasks done with much care, tenderness, and mindfulness weave into a rhythm, a cycle of a life of unconditional love. May you experience the simplest moments linking together, creating a beautiful tapestry of a life worth living.


Laura Staley
Laura Staley
The founder of Cherish Your World, Laura Staley passionately helps people thrive by guiding them to a holistic transformation of space, heart, mind, body, and soul. Laura knows that there’s a relationship between the conditions of our homes or workplaces and the quality of our lives. Trained and certified with the Western School of Feng Shui and seasoned by almost two decades of working with a variety of clients, Laura uses her intuition and expertise to empower her clients to produce remarkable results in their lives. Her trifecta of serving people includes speaking, writing, and compassionate listening. As a columnist, Laura writes personal essays focused on self-discovery, feng shui, emotional health, and transformations from the inside out. Laura is the published author of three books: Live Inspired, Let Go Courageously and Live with Love: Transform Your Life with Feng Shui, and the Cherish Your World Gift Book of 100 Tips to Enhance Your Home and Life. Prior to creating her company, Laura worked as a fulltime parent and an assistant professor at Ohio Wesleyan University. She earned a Ph.D. in political science from The Ohio State University. Her joys in life include laughing with loved ones, dancing, reading, meditating, running, being in nature, and listening to music she loves. She resides in Black Mountain, NC with lovable dog, Layla. Laura is a contributing author to the inspiring book Crappy to Happy: Sacred Stories of Transformational Joy

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  1. I love this one! There was always a dog in my house growing up. And now I’ve got two fur babies of my own. One is a 17 lb Chihuahua/Boston Terrier and the other is a 178 lb Great Dane. They have both taught me many lessons, in different ways of course.

    I shutter at knowing they will leave me one day. I couldn’t imagine their existence no longer existing.

    I’m sending you hugs during this great loss.

    • Oh, I’m so happy to know you loved this essay, Joanna! And I really enjoy hearing about your two lovable dogs who keep teaching you many things about love and life-in their unique and different ways. How wonderful you’ve had dogs in your life-most of your life-as a child and now as an adult! I appreciate your hugs as I hug you right back-I guess that’s the beautiful nature of a hug (the both/and). The waves of intense grief have subsided a bit. I think some part of me has been preparing for her ultimate transformation, her walk across that rainbow bridge. Writing is helping me so very much-as well as the kindness and support of your heartfelt words and those of many others. Thank you, Joanne-from my almost fully dog heart to yours.

    • Thank you so much, Darlene. I miss her very much and I know she’s chasing squirrels, romping with her Momma Lynzeebear, and living forever free-definitely wagging her tail from afar.