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7 Life Lessons I Learned From My Dog

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Valerie Albarda writes regularly at Midlife-A-Go-Go. This post was originally featured there.

Kenji Streeter Albarda was the doggie love of my life. Although he wasn’t the first huggable, furry creature to own me (shout out to Jippy, the Streeter family pooch and my first foray into dog ownership), Kenji was the 45-pound lab mix who adopted me on that unseasonably warm day at the Humane Society of Cobb County in February of 2000. He was 2-1/2 years old back then and he wasted no time in displaying just how energetic he could be.

As he got older, Kenji seemed to hold onto traits of a perennial puppy. His looks belied his true age. When he was eight years old, people would coo, “Oh look at the puppy! Good puppy… howya doin’ boy? What a pretty puppy.”
When he was nine, I took him to a dog park where he shocked me and my husband by matching Jackson, a 20-something pound dog that resembled a fox, paw for paw as she raced around the park at breakneck speeds. Out of all the dogs ripping and running in the park that day, Kenji was the only dog who could keep up with Jackson. That spirited romp did have its consequences; on the ride home, he was completely spent and slept the rest of the afternoon. But still… at nine years old. According to this chart from WebMD, that put him at about 56 years old in human years. Impressive.

Kenji wasn’t a puppy and he didn’t play one on TV. He did, however, know what the secret was to aging well. Unfortunately, he never divulged that valuable piece of information to me. It doesn’t matter, though. I believe I learned valuable lessons for living my fabulous midlife life by observing him.

Whenever I begin to doubt myself by thinking or saying things like, “I can’t do [   fill in the blank   ],”or “I’m too old to wear that/do that/dance like that/etc.,” I have to redirect my brainwaves and think,“What would Kenji do?” Sure, that may not be as soul-stirring as asking, “What would Jesus do?” but then again Kenji couldn’t heal a leper or still a raging storm, so . . .

Here’s what I’m choosing as takeaways from Kenji’s resilience and his somewhat age-defying life.

7 Life Lessons I Learned From My Dog

7 Life Lessons I Learned From My Dog

Kenji was geriatric and lived to be almost 17 years old. Sadly, he passed away in January 2015 and I’ve been mourning his loss ever since (and I likely will for a long time to come). But although I miss him terribly, I have been blessed with a new four-legged baby to cherish: Chaka, Kenji’s sister from another mister.

Compared to Kenji, Chaka, at 20 months old, is a mere snotty-nosed tyke. She has a lot to learn in life besides “sit,” “stay” and “fetch”. Her exuberance borders on scary, especially to my neighbors who may not know that even as she barks and jumps, all she really wants to do is play. As time goes on and Chaka and I grow older together, perhaps one day she will also teach me a few lessons about living my fabulous midlife life.

What midlife lessons has your pet taught you?

Valerie Albarda

Valerie Albarda typically writes about food, but she recently discovered her penchant for travel writing and writing about midlife. Her perfect day would involve traveling, eating and writing about it all. Valerie has been a lover of all things food for many years. She shows her appreciation for food by chronicling her culinary journeys near and far on her blog, Bon Vivant. In contrast, her website,, explores her intrinsic writing self. She has written three books, including her most recent title, Gettin’ Back To Happy“.Follow her on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Klout.Instagram: vauryleigh

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Gilly Maddison

Wednesday 29th of June 2016

Sad when our beloved dogs pass on. It's great that you have another one to make new memories with. Things have changed for us since our beautiful Charlie died - we go away a lot more and would not be able to take a dog with us. So no more for us. :-(

What did Charlie teach me? To love everyone unless they are clearly very bad people who will hurt you and in that case I GROWL and bare my teeth!!!!!

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