I am sure many of you have either read the book or seen the movie “A Dog’s Purpose.” I find this story especially fascinating because I have a service dog whose purpose has been to be my ears for ten years.

I truly believe that anyone – cancer survivor or not – needs a purpose in life. People who have a reason to live survive longer, whether they have cancer or not. I have learned so many things from my wonderful service dog named Sita.

Sita is a gorgeous yellow lab mix. The most mesmerizing part of her is her amber eyes. My Mother always said you look in those eyes and you knew she had a soul. They are tender, bottom less and gentle.

When Sita and I were partnered a decade ago, we bonded immediately. I looked into those soulful eyes and was smitten. The agency I received Sita from said they wished every dog and human bonded as quickly as we did.

As a hearing ear dog, Sita alerts me to any noise that might be different or dangerous by nudging me which we call a “bump.” Sirens, fire alarms, telephones and doorbells are all sounds she was trained to bump me for. She wasn’t taught to let me know when people were approaching me, but after witnessing my startled little jump after people came up behind me, she started nudging me every time. Once, she even alerted me in a parking lot when the car next to me had the motor running. It would have backed up and hit both of us without her sharp ears to tell me to get us out of the way.

Sita and I have traveled all over the country for both business and pleasure. She is a wonderful flyer, and the attendants tell me she is better behaved than some humans.

This year she developed arthritis and a serious limp. After water therapy, laser therapy, shots and other treatments, an orthopedic veterinarian figured out what was wrong. He did surgery and discovered the cartilage had actually fragmented, causing her serious pain. She was so stoic that she walked long distances with me because it was her job and hurting with every step. She never let me know.

When I questioned the veterinarian about doing a surgery on a 13 year old dog, he reminded me she was in good health otherwise. She is still limping, but much better and doesn’t appear to be in pain. If only our canines could talk!

My purpose has been to take care of her after she took care of me for 10 long years! We had to be separated several weeks because of the steps to my apartment. After the surgery, she was caged during the day at the veterinarian, and went home with a staff member at night. Her tail stopped wagging, her eyes became dull and she no longer did a little dance when she saw people she loved. It just about killed both of us.

Finally, we were together again. I could do physical therapy and take care of her so everything changed for the better. The sparkle returned to her eyes, the joy came back in her step and the tail never stops wagging!

We do not fly anywhere now and I limit some of the walking she does. But she is just happy to be working again. I think this book and movie about a dog’s purpose hit a nerve with the general population for a reason. We humans can relate to that purpose. We hear about people with cancer who live for a longer time and about unexplained miracles.

The famous philosopher Nietzsche said those who have a WHY to live find a HOW. If we would question the people who have beaten the odds, I would bet they have a reason, or several of them to live. Maybe it is family, friends, job, volunteer efforts, social causes, pets – I could go on and on.

Both my veterinarian and I are convinced that a purpose is what kept my dog in such good shape and healthy other than the arthritis. Through the dark days of my chemo every month, it is my friends, my family, my church, my writing, and yes, Sita, who gave me a reason to love – a purpose.

Why don’t you write down your purposes today? You just might live a little longer – and so will your dog!

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