We recently said goodbye to our Portuguese Water Dog, Rio. While we knew this day would eventually come, we hoped we would have more than 8 ½ years with him. We have had many great dogs in our family over the years, but none had the impact Rio did. As I think about all the great times we had with him, it fills me with joy that he touched so many lives in a meaningful way. Rio taught us all many “life lessons,” and I wanted to share a few with you.
Be Present - Live In the Moment
Like most dogs, Rio was great at living in the moment and enjoying whatever he was doing. He could spend hours playing fetch with a ball, and you could tell the only thing on his mind the entire time was that ball. While it’s certainly easier for a dog without any responsibilities to live in the moment, we should all try harder to be more present on a daily basis. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, so we need to remember to enjoy today and not get caught up in our “future/past slingshot" as one of my favorite yoga teachers says.
Get Outside and Move Your Body
We all know how important physical activity is, and Rio was certainly a good example of this. He was always on the go and it was hard to keep him out of the pool, ocean, or any body of water. He was recently described as being “full of energy with a real zest for life” by a neighbor. He loved to swim, run, and paddle board (often with a ball involved), to the point where we worried he might have a heart attack! We all need to move daily to live a healthier life….and being near salt water certainly helps!
Express Gratitude Daily
Rio had a good life, surrounded by family and friends and splitting his time between his beach house and home in the country! As Sheryl Crow sings, “It’s not having what you want, it's wanting what you've got.” Too often, we take many things in our life for granted until we realize they are gone. Rio always greeted everyone with a smile and a wag of his tail. While he couldn’t tell us how grateful he was, he expressed it on a regular basis. Show your gratitude to those around you on a daily basis.
Explore and Be Open to New Things
Watching Rio on our hikes through the woods of Loch Raven or long walks in Fenwick Island State park at the beach, he always walked twice as far as I did. He was constantly exploring, looking for new things, and sniffing everything around, completely immersed in the experience. Too often, we get set in our ways and are unwilling to go outside our “comfort zone.” This is a mistake because we only grow when we challenge ourselves and try new things.
Teach the Children Well
Our older grandchildren grew up with Rio, as they were 3, 2, and 1 when we got him. They considered him “their” dog, and while they must have driven him crazy at times, his patience with them was amazing. Sure, he would jump on them in the pool, but he was only following his instincts and trying to “save” them! He listened to them better than me, dropping the ball for them and waiting patiently for them to throw it. His presence in their lives will have a lifelong impact on them, and I can’t think of a better way to leave a legacy.
Quiet Your Mind
Rio was always up by sunrise at the beach, regardless of the time. Looking back now, it seems like he knew his time on the earth was limited, so he didn’t want to miss a single one! In today’s hyper-connected world, it’s easy to get caught up in social media distractions and forget to live each day to the fullest. While Rio had an Instagram account, he was not worried about getting the perfect picture or the most likes. He just wanted to enjoy the moment, often with a ball nearby. As Zac Brown sings, “If you're too busy talkin’, you're not busy listening’, to hear what the land has to say.” We all can benefit from quieting our minds.
I don’t think I have ever been more connected to a non-human being than I was with Rio. He had a huge impact on my life and the lives of many others close to me. We will miss him terribly, and we will never forget all the great times we had with him. We are all on this planet for a short time, and Rio’s life lessons should help us to live it well!
- Lyle K Benson Jr., CPA, PFS, CFP
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