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On Keeping An Open Heart

I can’t even begin to count all of the ways my life has been blessed by having dogs. They bring me so much joy on a daily basis by greeting me when I walk in, making me smile with their antics, coming over for cuddles, comforting me when they know I’m upset, keeping me company while I work and just being chill and awesome. But beyond all of those normal dog things, I also continue to be amazed by how much I learn from them.

This recent ordeal with Sullie has taught me a whole lot about living life with an open and loving heart.


Sullie is so laid back, friendly and loving. When I took her to the vet to have all of her lumps and bumps checked, she took all of the poking, prodding and needle sticks like it was nothing. She never stopped smiling or giving kisses and even willingly rolled over with her belly up and laid in my lap so that the doctor could get the samples from the spots on her chest and belly.


Getting the results back and learning she’d have to go in for surgery just a few weeks later broke my heart. It was the hardest thing to leave her at the vet the morning of surgery knowing what she was going to have to go through.


Seeing her so quiet and in pain after the surgery continued to break my heart but my fighter took it like a champ.


Just two days after her surgery she was back to lounging in her favorite belly-up position and with every day that passed she got stronger and more spirited.


On Monday I took Sullie back to the vet to get her staples out and as we were sitting in the waiting room I had this huge learning moment from her. She was totally happy to be there. She was smiling, greeting everyone who walked in, begging for pats and eating treats…despite the fact that just 11 days earlier she had undergone a major surgery in this same place. When her doctor walked in the room she rushed over for love and pats and willingly let her examine the incisions on her chest and abdomen. There was never one bit of fear or anxiety. Just love and an open heart.


Getting the staples out didn’t seem to phase her at all and she hopped right back in the car to enjoy an afternoon one-on-one with mom.


I took her to Metro with me while I trained a client and worked out, just like the old days. She was in her glory getting to hang out at work with me and getting attention from everyone.


Sullie and Zoey have been inseperable now that the staples are out and she’s cleared for play again.


Her resilience is truly incredible.

Today marks two weeks since Sullie’s surgery. I’m beyond grateful that everything turned out okay in the end. I am also grateful for the beautiful example of love and open heartedness that she showed me.

Every time we choose to love and open our hearts, we risk getting hurt. And the inevitable truth of it is that eventually we will get hurt. Once that happens there is a choice to make. I’m going to let scar tissue grow over the hurt, close down my heart and turn to fear and anxiety or I’m going to let the wound heal, open my heart and choose to love again.

It might seem silly to some but watching Sullie navigate her way through this process in such a graceful and loving way has been inspiring to me and I love her wide open, loving heart so much.

What lessons have you learned from your pets? 

{ 29 comments… add one }
  • 1
    Summer Hendrix June 8, 2016, 11:25 am

    I have tears rolling down my face!
    I have learned more lessons on love, patience and joy from my puppy, Bowden, than I can even count. It is truly amazing how these little beings can express such acceptance and happiness, no matter what trials and tribulations they go through. The standard of grace they hold us, their owners and fur mamas/papas, to is so admirable and sometimes even breathtaking.
    So, so happy to see Sullie doing better!

    • 2
      Jen DeCurtins June 9, 2016, 3:40 pm

      Thank you so much Summer. <3

  • 3
    Rebecca Strength and Sunshine June 8, 2016, 11:37 am

    This was so sweet Jen! I’m so glad Sullie is doing well! I wish I had a dog! I’ve only had one when I was super young, so I don’t remember anything from that time 🙁

    • 4
      Jen DeCurtins June 9, 2016, 3:39 pm

      I hope it’s something you get to experience again later in life when the time is right! xo

  • 5
    Nicki June 8, 2016, 11:49 am

    This makes my heart and soul SO very happy!! What a wonderful story and Sullie is truly special 🙂 Thank you for sharing and 1000000000% agree about choosing to love, no matter what, even if/when it results in getting hurt. What’s life without love?!

    • 6
      Jen DeCurtins June 9, 2016, 3:39 pm

      Thank you Nicki. And all we can do is love and serve. <3

  • 7
    Tara June 8, 2016, 12:51 pm

    how sweet ! i am a cat person and lost my little man almost 2 years ago. i am still not anywhere near over it. i learned so much from him…how to not care what others think (typical cat – he knew he was the bomb and was just gracing me with his presence 🙂 ), that laying for a few mins all stretched out in the sun is such a wonderful feeling, that a lot of strength can be packed into a tiny package, that truly mama’s are the best and nothing beats cuddles with your mom, and that when its late at night and you are still awake worrying over something he will be there in body or in spirit to talk it out with you and make you realize it will all be better in the morning. pets are a true gift from god.

    • 8
      Jen DeCurtins June 9, 2016, 3:38 pm

      Hey Tara – I’m so sorry about your cat. You are so right about the cat attitude! Ha! I love all of your memories and lessons. I hope you find that joy again in the future.

  • 9
    Erin Cusack June 8, 2016, 1:15 pm

    Awe, sweet Sullie! So glad she recovered well and continues to be herself! I totally agree with you that dogs teach us so much about life. I actually justtt wrote a post about this! If you want to check it out: http://www.erincusackblog.com/life-lessons-learned-from-my-dog/

    • 10
      Jen DeCurtins June 9, 2016, 3:38 pm

      Yes, thank you for sharing! Heading over to read!

  • 11
    Cat June 8, 2016, 3:00 pm

    I think the best lesson my dogs have taught me is that family is what matters in life and what truly makes you happy. They don’t care what size house we have or if we have fancy things, but are content and happy when we all spend time together. Going for a family walk makes my dog as excited as a kid going to Disney world. I wish I would enjoy life like they do. I think everyone would be much happier. I have also always loved the quote “I want to be the person my dog thinks I am”.

    • 12
      Jen DeCurtins June 9, 2016, 3:37 pm

      This is the SWEETEST! And so true!

  • 13
    Rebecca June 8, 2016, 4:07 pm

    Glad Sullie has healed so well! I had a Golden Retriever growing up and they are just the sweetest, most patient dogs. My mom was reminding me that Beau (our golden) actually failed his obedience class because all he wanted to do was get pets from the ladies teaching it!

    We adopted a German Shepherd/Staffordshire terrier mix about 9 months ago and she is really teaching me patience! She loves people so much but is reactive and aggressive to other dogs. We aren’t sure what the first year of her life was like and she spent about 6 months in an animal control facility, so she may have had bad experiences with other dogs.

    She and I are taking a class called “Reactive Integration” and for the first few weeks I felt frustrated that she wasn’t improving. But then this past week it was like everything just clicked for her! It’s all about patience and consistency. Even if her reaction to other dogs never improves much, just taking the class together has really strengthened our bond.

    And from my cats I have learned that sometimes the best thing to do is find a warm sunspot and take a nap! They always know when I’m feeling down and will give me cuddles to cheer me up.

    • 14
      Jen DeCurtins June 9, 2016, 3:37 pm

      This is such a cool story Rebecca. I think it’s so great that you are taking that class together and that it’s strengthening your bond. She’s luck to have an owner who is so caring and dedicated. Haha, love your cat lesson! 🙂

  • 15
    Christine June 8, 2016, 4:12 pm

    I am so so so glad for Sullie!!!! Dogs are truly the best — I have a three legged rescue Pomeranian who was left to run free and had a neighbor SHOOT HIM…and instead of getting him vet care his last owner took him to a horse farm, where he chopped the rest of his leg off. Despite being hurt so badly, and emotionally traumatized, this little dog is SUCH a lover!!! It would be understandable if he was mean, and nervous, but he isn’t, he is a bundle of joy and his sweet nature reminds me that we are so much more than the bad things that happen to us. XO!

    • 16
      Jen DeCurtins June 9, 2016, 3:36 pm

      Christine – your story brought both a smile to my face and tears to my eyes. I cannot even fathom how people can be so terrible to animals and I also continue to be so amazed by how loving and forgiving animals can be after enduring such awful things. Sending you guys love.

  • 17
    erin June 8, 2016, 8:19 pm

    so sweet! sukie has taught be so many valuable lessons. she has taught me to forgive and move on…not to hold a grudge. she has also taught be the value of touch and how it can really connect you to a dog or human & to definitely take time for that connection….it might be just holding a hand or rubbing a paw, but it can make such a difference.

    • 18
      Jen DeCurtins June 9, 2016, 3:35 pm

      I hear you on forgiving and move on…it’s definitely something you also have to practice with your pups when they do something they’re not supposed to! (Like Zoey eating my shoes…) I love the sentiment on touch so much Erin. Beautiful! <3

  • 19
    Emily My Healthyish Life June 8, 2016, 8:57 pm

    I love this post, Jen. My dog (and now puppy, too!) is the light of my life and I get so much joy from watching him. It’s kind of silly to say, but he is just so damn happy every day that it’s infectious. You can’t not be happy when you’re around dogs.

    I’m so happy that Sullie is on the mend xo

    • 20
      Jen DeCurtins June 9, 2016, 3:31 pm

      I am loving the pics of your new pup! 🙂 I totally get the infectious happiness. It reminds you not to take everything so seriously!

  • 21
    Victoria June 8, 2016, 10:55 pm

    Aw sweet sweet goldens. Love this post! I grew up with goldens and our most recent of 15 years passed about 2 years ago. She brought SUCH joy but also a sense of calmness to life (you know when they’re just lying having a snooze right by you at the end of a crazy day). I truly miss sharing my life with a dog (specifically a golden) ALOT lately. My boyfriend and I are almost ready for a pup but I just hesitate with the working hours when we’re gone during the day. Hopefully soon!

    • 22
      Jen DeCurtins June 9, 2016, 3:30 pm

      Thank you, Victoria. I know exactly what you mean about the sense of clam. I really hope that you are able to have a dog in your life again very soon. I know it’s hard to juggle with work schedules.

  • 23
    Joy June 9, 2016, 8:23 am

    This is beautiful, Jen. I have two cats and they have both had major surgery in past years and they were both troopers through it all. I hated putting them through it all, but they dealt with it wonderfully. Loving with an open heart is a wonderful way of putting it. Thanks for such a great post!

    • 24
      Jen DeCurtins June 9, 2016, 3:29 pm

      Thank you, Joy. I’m so happy to hear that your cats made it through surgery and are doing well. It is so hard to put them through it, I agree.

  • 25
    Chris June 11, 2016, 10:12 pm

    We have a sweet tempered 2 year old mixed breed named Lily. I would have to say that the main thing I’ve learned from her is that there is always time to play. No matter how hard a day has been, getting out to play makes it all better. This is a lesson I need to learn over and over!

    • 26
      Jen DeCurtins June 14, 2016, 4:03 pm

      Zoey would agree!!!! 🙂

  • 27
    JennyV June 11, 2016, 10:44 pm

    So happy about Sullie’s prognosis!

    I can’t even tell you how much I love my pups and how grateful I am for them (though I know you totally get it.) They’re just incredible – their sensitivity to emotions is unbelievable. One of my pups seems to be a therapy dog without the training — if I’m upset or stressed, she comes and lays her head on my feet or will come and lean against me. It’s a sense that we would be able to see in others, but often times we’re so busy with our own “stuff” to stop and connect. I love their loyalty to our family and the excitement that they have in the mundane. It’s as if they’re thinking: A walk? YES! A new adventure! Food? The best meal I’ve ever eaten! We certainly can take their lead and smile at the little things each day.

    • 28
      Jen DeCurtins June 14, 2016, 4:02 pm

      Thanks Jenny! Your comment about your pups made me smile ! I also love the enthusiasm and enjoyment they find in day-to-day activities! It’s so sweet and grounding.

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