What My Pets and Child Have Taught Me About Life

Have you ever heard the theory that each child you have teaches you something different about life? I think it’s so true, and I also think it’s true with each pet you own. I was driving (actually, I was sitting in classic Pittsburgh traffic 😂) and thinking about this and knew I had to blog about it!

So, let’s start with my the first dog I owned, Lola.

She was legendary! My dad and I went to the humane society and picked her out together for my 14th birthday and she saw me through every major life change after that–middle school, high school, college, marriage, buying a home, adopting a cat, adopting a puppy, and having a child. She was a black lab mixed with a pit bull and very gentle and sweet.


She had a penchant for digging in the trash and never played with toys. What made her heart sing was a good, long walk. She was legendary because she was a bit of a wild puppy who chewed a lot, once jumped 12 feet off a porch, ate a whole chicken carcass, and lived to tell it all.

Lola taught me to cherish every moment. Cliché right? It’s true though! She was always there, and then she wasn’t. If I would have known the day she was going to pass away, I would have cherished her more. Cherished her better. I would have hugged her longer that morning, taken her on one more walk, and fed her all the foods she liked. That’t not how life works, though–we don’t know when people or animals will die. She taught me to live with that in mind and cherish every moment with loved ones.

How about our handsome black cat, Malcolm?

Black cat laying in windowsill

Jimmy and I adopted him in 2016 and he is the least fearful cat I’ve ever met. When someone knocks on the door, he’s there before the dog. He’s super friendly… but will also randomly bite or scratch us out of nowhere. He’s playful, but also prickly.

He has taught me to meet people where they’re at. I would love if Malcolm didn’t bite and scratch for no reason, but that’s just who he is. People in life will let us down, emotionally hurt us, and have good and bad qualities. That doesn’t mean we don’t love them anyways. We just meet them where they’re at and give them extra grace, just like God does for us because nobody is perfect.

Onto Mavis, the most intelligent dog I’ve ever owned. Jimmy and I brought home our bright, spunky, adorable cocker spaniel in 2017 and she quickly showed aptitude for therapy dog work.

Cocker spaniel puppy therapy dog in training

We went through almost a year of training and worked so, so hard for her to earn her AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy title, then moved on to the Canine Good Citizen test, and were ultimately aiming for her therapy dog certification. My goal was to have a therapy dog as a ministry–to be able to take her to nursing homes, hospitals, schools, etc. and meet people, pray with them, listen to their stories, and provide comfort.

Unfortunately, we had an incident with Mavis and Sadie and we had to rehome her. She is in the very best home right now and I see her often. Of course I wish she was still part of our family, that we were visiting hospitals together, and that I could share pictures of her and Sadie snuggling. But that’s not our story. Instead, she is getting so, so much love from a wonderful family and has lots of fur siblings that she gets along with.

Mavis taught me that God alone is in control. We’re often told that if we work hard enough, we will achieve our dreams. We put in the effort, time, love, and dedication to train Mavis and it just didn’t work out. It was the first time in my life that I worked the hardest I could possibly work… and it didn’t result in my desired outcome. It wasn’t a simple equation of hard work + consistency = success.

God is in control. Even if our plans don’t turn out the way we want, His plans for us are better. We may not understand things on this side of heaven, but we can trust that He is good.

Okay, let’s talk about Sader Tot! She has taught me to find joy in every moment.

Sadie embodies pure joy. I want to see the world as she does–like it’s this cool, amazing, delightful surprise.

Just the other day she found my stash of ribbon that I use for crafting and was dancing around the house with ribbon in her hands saying “let’s celebrate!” and I was thinking man, she has got it right! Life should be celebrated and joy can be found in every situation.

Last but not least, we have Niva, our youngest baby.

Niva has taught me that you never know where life will take you. After losing Lola and rehoming Mavis, I was so sad. I really wanted another dog, but didn’t think I could manage a puppy since Sadie was (and is, lol) still young. Then we found Niva, who was almost a year old when we brought her home and she was just what I needed. Wild, energetic, and totally different from any other dog I’ve loved.

Through Niva, I have met so many different people and made connections I never would have otherwise made. Just a few years ago, I never would have guessed that we would no longer have Lola and Mavis, that we would instead have Niva, and even host a big ‘ol husky party in our backyard. You just never know where life will take you.

So, to sum it up in case you scrolled to the bottom of this long, sappy post…

  • Lola taught me to cherish every moment.
  • Malcolm has taught me to meet people where they are.
  • Mavis taught me that God is in control.
  • Sadie teaches me to find joy in every situation.
  • Niva has taught me that you never know where life will take you.

What have your children or pets taught you about life?


  1. You are right about children and pets teaching us something or have a purpose in our life. Having multi dogs at one time in my home, 6 a times. When families don’t agree or understand why have so many dogs. To me the dogs are comfort to me, my ears ( deaf) and a purpose in life. With each rescue dog they had issues. And the purpose I didn’t know was they were my answer from God, to start a small business after my retirement making homemade dog food, Pawlicious. To help and educate other caine families in feeding their fur kids simple, clean and healthy human food to them. I thank God for this and also all Pawlicious customers who reach out to me to show there is another way to feed our pets.

    1. You have always amazed and impressed me with how dedicated and nurturing you are with dogs! They have served you as much as you have served them and it’s beautiful to see! ❤

  2. TOTALLY Bawling my eyes out right now. It wasn’t long and sappy. That was definitely one of the best posts you have ever written.

  3. This is so beautiful, and I adore that you included pets!! My current cat had a near death experience and he has been so unbelievably resilient that he has taught me just how strong we all are.

  4. Agree with your Madre Allie, tears in my eyes and at the same time very impressed.

    Love You,

  5. I don’t think I’ve commented before but this inspired me.
    What a lovely post and so true – people don’t recognise all the amazing affects pets have on us. My cat was feral, severely undernourished, tiny and living underneath a house. I was fostering kittens and they kind of dumped him in the mix. I later found out they expected him to be beyond saving, that he was “too feral” and would end up being put down so I was his last hope.
    He went from hiding in pot plants (covering himself in dirt) because he was so afraid to a completely different cat. He’s now my little shadow now, has learnt how to purr and insists on me carrying him around my neck for hours. He’s still afraid of a lot and is very attached to me only but to think where he started from!
    He taught me that there is always hope. With a little bit of courage anything can be accomplished, no matter how damaged we are.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! Wow, so wild about your cat being feral and not expected to be saved. The story about him hiding in dirt in pot plants is cute, but also so sad that he was so afraid! I’m so, so happy to hear he is now your little shadow. AMEN to there always being hope!! ❤

    1. Thank you so much, Rachel!! It was such a reflective experience to write this post!! And yes, Sadie is a huge blessing to me! Way more than I am to her haha.

  6. This is such a lovely post. 🙂

    I’ve had many pets in my life so far. When I was a teenager, I had a horse who taught me to be patient. When I first got her, she was very nervous about wearing her bridle, so I had to dismantle the bridle into pieces and introduce her to wearing each piece at a time. Carrots helped too! It took a few days, but we developed a strong bond.

    My current pet Aimée is so sweet and loving, and she has a very curious nature. She reminds me to take breaks from work and get outside!

    1. Thank you so much, Grace!! I love the story about your horse teaching you patience! I am also jealous you had a horse growing up–that’s just so cool!! I love what Aimée has taught you about life! Such a sweetie ❤

  7. We really do learn so much from our pets and children. Love this post!

    I still think about Mavis from time to time. I’m glad you get to see her still, but I know that had to be so hard. ❤

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