I’m the first to admit that I did NOT want a dog. Breaking things, slobbering, making messes, peeing on the floor — I already have kids for that.

But my husband has been yearning for a canine companion for the 18 years I’ve known him, and my excuses were wearing thin. So we went to visit some homeless dogs and, needless to say, a wiggly rescue mutt captured my heart completely.

Maybe it’s too much time at home sans adult companionship, but I’m starting to think the fuzzy one’s trying to teach me something. As we enter the dog days of summer, behold four important life lessons I’ve learned from an animal who licks her own butt.

It’s never too crummy to walk outside.

It could be 31 degrees and overcast or pouring rain or hot as hell, that girl always wants to walk!

While I might definitely will complain about it at first, a block or two into our walks and I’m grateful for the peace and quiet. It’s calming to get outside for a little fresh air every day, even when the weather’s terrible. In fact, I’ve learned that walking in the rain or snow can be surprisingly enjoyable.

Plus, walking my dog each day boosts my mood, certainly benefits my health (and hers!) and even saves me time at the gym. The hardest part of our daily outing is getting out the door, and thankfully, my poochie provides the nudge I need.

Your past doesn’t determine your future.

Our dog was 5 months old when we adopted her. We know she was rescued from a high-kill shelter and before that she was a stray. Her docked tail and fear of cars and crates also implies she was mistreated early on.

Today, her past is firmly behind her with a loving family, big yard, warm bed, steady meals and puppy playmates. She’s healthy, shiny and beautiful. She knows several tricks and loves to perform. And she’s extremely affectionate and happy.

Whenever I start worrying about moving (again) or getting back into the workforce or trying to publish my book, or even when I get nervous about an upcoming social situation, I feel the cuddly dog snoozing at my feet. Her past didn’t hold her back. Her challenges didn’t limit her opportunities or stifle her chance for happiness, and I’m reminded that I shouldn’t let mine either.

It’s okay to just listen.

My son has reading and writing challenges, so homework can be a nightmare. I walk a fine line between trying to help him and frustrating the heck out of him. Plus, I’ll admit, I’m not the most patient person.

I’ve noticed that our dog is his favorite one to read to, and her very presence soothes him. She doesn’t judge. She doesn’t correct or complain. And when things get ruff (sorry!), she’s always there with her sweet puppy-dog eyes and an abundance of kisses.

It’s like she’s showing me that sometimes it’s best to simply be present and available.

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Note to self: Do like the dog and just shut-up and listen.

Show people how you feel.

Whenever my boys get home from school, puppy-girl jumps up and down and howls her appreciation. At night before bed, the furry one showers her human siblings with hundreds of licks. She’s never, ever stingy with her affection.

You don’t need to question if she likes you, she doesn’t hold back or hesitate. She puts her love out there. Always. And that’s an important life lesson for all of us.

Hug the people you care about. Give kisses and cuddles. Say, “I love you.”

What are you waiting for? Let your humans know how you feel.

This post originally appeared on Sammiches & Psych Meds.