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9 Tips For Living A Happy Life, From My Dog - The Dusty Parachute by Susanne Kerns Skip to main content

9 Tips For Living A Happy Life, From My Dog


Our beloved dog, Jackson, passed away this week. He was 12 years old and had been diagnosed with cancer six months ago. Although we knew it was coming, nothing can prepare you for the heartbreak of losing a pet.

The kids have never known life without him and we have a hard time remembering what life was like before bringing him home and totally pissing off the cats exactly 12 years ago.

We’re doing our best to focus on the happy times instead of dwelling on the sadness of missing him. In that spirit, I would like to share with you some of the valuable life lessons I have learned from Jackson.


Learn how to accept a compliment: When you ask a dog, “Who’s such a handsome dog?” Their answer is always, “I am!” And the answer to “Who’s the best dog in the world?” Yep, “It’s me!” again. Dogs don’t bother with “Oh, but this collar makes my neck look fat” or “If only I were better at barking”. No matter how much praise and over-the-top compliments you throw their way, they gladly accept them and roll over and let you rub their belly while you tell them more about how fabulous they are.

Celebrate the small things: You could always tell when Jackson had taken a poop because he would prance around the patio, circling furniture like a barrel racing horse in a rodeo. Sometimes this went on for over a minute straight and included an invitation to come join him. Imagine how much more rewarding life would be if we all took this much pride in our small achievements each day.

Trust your gut: Oprah used to have a security guy on all the time that would say that most women end up getting into dangerous situations because they’re too polite to listen to their gut and tell creepy guys to buzz off. You know who would never fall for that? A dog. If someone you don’t know comes to your door, there’s no need to make polite small talk. Bark your ass off until they retreat! And if they come back every day for the next 12 years and keep bringing you envelopes and packages, just bark louder!

Make a decision and stand by it: If you asked Jackson if he wanted a walk, the answer was never “Ohhhh, I don’t knowwwww…what do youuu want to dooo?” It was “Holy shit, yes! You’re a genius for suggesting it! I’ll dance in circles for you while you get your shoes on!”  Which kind of person would you rather hang out with?

Teach people how to treat you: Jackson used to just get treats for bribes or when doing tricks. In recent years, whenever he started coming inside he would alternate staring at us and staring at the treat jar until it became abundantly clear that he thought walking through the door was worth a reward. And sure enough, we started giving him one. Every damn time. If you’re not getting what you want from someone in your life, try following them around with intense eye contact for a while, it’s quite effective.

Don’t worry what others think: Jackson used to love going out and laying in the yard, ears back, eyes squinting up at the sun with a big smile on his face. It didn’t matter if it was 28 degrees or 108 degrees. We would think he was crazy and go out to make sure he wasn’t freezing/overheating and he would just respond with some happy panting and a luxurious stretch. I don’t know what he was thinking out there, but you can tell from this face that it made him incredibly happy.


Look out for the little guys: Despite having 60 pounds on them, Jackson was incredibly sweet and gentle with our two cats. (I believe he was technically common-law married to one of them). He put up with them butting in on his petting session and walking under him and inappropriately tickling his privates with their tails. Most amazingly, he regularly would wait for them to finish drinking before getting a drink for himself. It takes a special kind of strength to be gentle with someone you could easily push around.


Be selective in who you love & love them like crazy: Jackson was friendly to everyone but saved his out-of-his-mind-in-love affection for a select few. He waited all year for visits from Pop & Nana who were the best dog-walkers in the world, and for Grandma to visit and scratch his ears and have in-depth conversations about all the reasons he was a good dog. He loved our friends Nate & Connie so much that he even got excited whenever they sent something in the mail because he could smell them on the wrapping paper.  Never be afraid to show someone how much you love them.

Protect the ones you love: Here’s a picture of Jackson ‘protecting’ my husband from me when I had a cough a few months ago (or one could argue that he was trying to protect me by making sure my husband was aware of my condition.) He did this every night for a week. Whenever I would have a coughing fit, he would get up from his bed and walk over and put his chin on our bed and stare at my husband until everything was okay. Even more amazingly, we once took Jackson on a trip to his favorite dog park after just discovering that I was pregnant with our first child. Instead of playing with the other dogs, he sat protectively at my feet not letting any other dogs near me. I’ll never understand how he ‘knew’ and I’ll never forget the love of a dog that chose protecting his owner over playing that day.



We’ll always miss having Jackson in our lives, but will never forget the valuable lessons he taught us while he was with us.

“Who’s a good dog?”

You are Jackson.


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The Dusty Parachute by Susanne Kerns
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27 thoughts to “9 Tips For Living A Happy Life, From My Dog”

  1. I really enjoyed this blog post. As a dog owner myself I can relate to it so much. Until now I am still amazed at how dogs understand things that were not told to them or known to them. They just know and they stick by you. Life is so much more special with some furry friends to walk with.

    1. Thank you so much for your response (and for reading it!) I still think about him every day but was REALLY just thinking about him because a neighbor dog that looks identical to him walked by the window. Funny that you happened to respond at the same time. 🙂

  2. Oh my goodness, I would like to think Jackson and Lexi are hitting it off. He looks like a lovable guy, and those eyes…so much love there. Thank you for sending me the link, from one pet owner to another I appreciate it.

    1. Jackson had a Bernese litter mate, so maybe they’re long lost cousins. I’m so sorry again for your loss – The sucker punch of huge love is the huge pain when they’re gone. Sending internet hugs.

  3. I cried, I laughed. Thank you so much for commenting on my post on BlogHer about Texas. We have lost way too many dogs as we take in rescue dogs and my blog has lots of stories about them. In the last 3 months, we have lost 3 dogs. My Mercedez is now 15 and she has survived 3 deaths of her friends and she is changing rapidly — I don’t think she can handle much more grief. She is still in wonderful health but I can see she is mourning and getting old and very tired.

    So glad to connect with another dog lover.


    1. I’m so glad that we were able to connect – your story had sure touched me. I am so sorry for all of your losses. I am having a hard enough time with one, I can’t even imagine three in such a short period. Sending lots of good thoughts your way.

  4. Second post today from you that made me happy and sad all at once. Seriously, what a wonderful tribute to Jackson and sounds like he was indeed, “A Good Boy”! Thank you for sharing him here with all of us today.

  5. I’m crying. Mostly because of your mention of the way he waited for the grandparents to visit. I truly feel my dogs do that, the older one, for certain (he’s also 12) and when my mom came alone after my dad passed in October ’13 I swear Dexter KNEW.

    Sniffling up a storm here. Beautiful.

  6. I’m a dumbass for reading this first thing in the morning after my daughter fell asleep crying because she figured out her dog would someday die and stating “I am NEVER getting another dog again because I only love Chico!”.

    This is an AMAZING tribute to Jackson and SOOO true. Every word of it. Thank you for sharing Jackson’s awesomeness with us. I’ll be praying for you guys.

    1. Thank you so much. It was heartbreaking to live this experience through the eyes of our kids, but I have to tell you, their little spirits are amazingly resilient. I’ve been in awe of how well they have handled everything – I could learn a thing or two from them.

  7. This is a very sweet post… So sorry to hear about Jackson. I think we will be saying goodbye to our geriatric cat this year. I’m sure we’ve learned many life lessons from his little 18-yr-old self.

  8. I don’t know who was more blessed: You or Jackson. What a beautiful tribute to your sweet doggie! Wishing you comfort and peace to go with your amazing memories.

  9. I wanted to blub a bit reading this…Ok I confess, I did blub a bit reading this. Those are some brilliant life lessons from a very happy loving dog. They really do change how we see things.

  10. I loved this. It is the truth. I am so sorry to hear about Jackson. I know you guys are heartbroken. I hope your memories of all of the happy times soon overshadows the pain. Jackson was the luckiest dog in the world to have you as his family.

  11. Loved this from beginning to end.
    Losing a pet is difficult. A peice of your family is missing and it is hard to accept.
    Keep remembering the cute, funny moments.
    Thank you for putting life into perspective.

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