One year ago tomorrow I said goodbye to my Barnabas.

One year ago tomorrow I said goodbye to my Barnabas. I wish I could just skip over that day.

I can't believe it's been a year and I am shocked at how painful and intense the pain still is. While I was waiting in a grocery store checkout tonight and looking over my cart, I realized half my cart was filled with dog-related items. I commented to the man waiting behind me that more of my grocery budget was spent on the dogs than the humans in my household.

He smiled and said, "Well, that's okay. They are family too, aren't they?" His comment shed light on my aching heart.
Barney was family. I did lose a part of me. As I lamented to a dear friend this week about how I can't seem to get over Barney's death, she reminded me that when we lose a family member, we don't just "get over it." We always grieve the loss, no matter how many years go by.

Barnabas made me a better person. I learned new relationship lessons and re-visited old ones while he was in my life.
I just read an email written by a veterinarian who listed 10 things dogs have taught him about relationships.
Dr. Andy Roark states that he is a far better husband because of the wisdom bestowed by a dog's example. Among his list were things like "Forgive mistakes." Dogs never hold a grudge, forgive us for our failings and do not dwell on our wrongs. Dogs celebrate time together. They are always thrilled over-the-moon to see you. They encourage us to exercise, grab the leash and go for a walk, away from phones, computers and televisions. They show love in big and small ways by just leaning against us, laying their head on our lap or running in circles in ecstatic joy because we're home. (Rich would love that kind of greeting.)

If we knew we would have to say goodbye to a loved one tomorrow, what would we do? It's a question we should ask ourselves often. We can take some cues from our dogs. They express their love for us with reckless abandon, never giving one second of thought to looking foolish or worrying what others might think. For them, the present moment is the one that counts and it only counts if their beloved is with them! Oliver Wendell Holmes was quoted as saying, "The average person goes to their grave with the music still in them." I would venture to say that most dogs do not go to their grave with the music still in them, unless we muzzle it by our mistreatment of them.

When we've lost a loved one to death or an ended relationship, our deepest regrets seem to be that we didn't express or demonstrate our love more openly. No one has to tell a dog that love is an action word. Someone once said, "I love you means little if there is no wag, nuzzle or lick to go with it." We depend on overused words to convey our love for each other when a little demonstration or two of how much we care would go much further. Dogs need no words but speak from their heart quite well without them.

Even as puppies, they model relationships for us. Last week we rescued five beautiful Rhodesian Ridgeback mix puppies that were abandoned at a rural property south of Neosho. They were all a little leery of us, having obviously been mistreated and traumatized by spending a few nights with no protection, no food, no water and no mother. But within just a few hours the tails started to wag and the puppy kisses and dances began without restraint. Tonight I let them out of their pen to exercise and play but all they wanted to do was climb all over me. As I walked around the yard, they followed. I looked like the Puppy Pied Piper!

1 John 3:18 says "Let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth." Barney would take exception to the "tongue" reference. He expressed love with that big slobbery tongue of his quite often. I really, really miss that.

Leanne Williams is president of Faithful Friends Animal Advocates.