Barks To Live By

As I waited in the pharmacy for my flu shot, I checked out a book display. Among various inspirational books was Wise Dogs by H. Jackson Brown, Jr. and Dale C. Spartas. The book pairs words of wisdom with beautiful dog photos. The small book brightened my day and got me thinking.

Animals have always been there for me during good times and rough patches. They never judge, love unconditionally, are fantastic listeners, and never share my secrets.

Our newest addition to the family, Addie.

But pets offer more than companionship. Studies show they can improve our mood and immune systems, reduce stress, anxiety, and lower blood pressure. (A common statement in my house when someone’s cranky is “Will you pet a dog to lower your blood pressure and calm down?” It’s also a handy excuse. “Sorry. I can’t _______. I’m lowering my blood pressure now.”) There are stories of people who would’ve committed suicide if not for having a pet to care for.

I have a “Dogilosophy” coaster. If you can’t read it in the picture it says, “Listen more than you speak. Act like you have purpose. Appreciate a simple life. Give more than you receive. Be happy with what you have. Be a best friend.” What fabulous advice. Ever since, I’ve tried to follow this.

Jack and foster Mindy helping me write this post.

I’ve added to this list of what dogs and pets have taught me from Wise Dogs,, and the Huffington Post.

  • Live in the moment/Enjoy life/Enjoy the journey—I think this is especially important now with social media. How often do we see people ignoring those around them in favor of their phone? Some people are so busy posting what they’re doing they’re not really present in what’s happening. I’ve learned sometimes the journey is more important than the destination. Wise Dogs says, “Who you’re with is always more important than where you are.”
  • Walk more—Very few of us get enough exercise. I know I don’t. (I’m adding walking the dogs more to my resolutions.)
  • Drink more water—Again I’m adding to things to work on in 2021!
  • Greet everyone with enthusiasm/Jump for joy when you’re happy—We don’t celebrate successes and the positives in our lives enough. Dogs do. Finding a stick, barking at a squirrel outside the window, their human coming back after checking for mail are all celebrated with gusto.
    Jack greeting my youngest son with enthusiasm!
  • Everyone needs a hand to hold and a heart to understand—This has been difficult with COVID-19. We need to find other ways to stay connected such as notes and phone calls.
  • Play and run daily—We need to have more fun!
  • Be loyal/Defend and protect those you love—Truly good friends are a rare gift and should be treated as such.
  • Don’t hold a grudge/Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship/Leave the past in the past—I’ve fostered dogs who came from terrible situations that are still capable of love. They don’t let their tragic past steal their future.
  • Family doesn’t have to be blood—I’m a big believer the one and the theme runs through many of my books.

Don’t have the time or space for a pet? Consider volunteering at an animal shelter walking dogs or playing with cats or dogs. Or, visit a friend with a pet. I bet you’ll receive health benefits.

As we thankfully approach the end of 2020, I pray 2021 is better for the people who have suffered or still are and may we all be a more like pets. I’ll leave you with one last quote from Wise Dogs. “May your dreams defy the laws of gravity.”

Today’s giveaway is a “live like someone left the gate open” (one of my favorite sayings) mug and A Cure For the Vet which contains my book The Rancher and the Vet. My heroine, Avery McAlister, is a veterinarian who runs an animal shelter. To be entered in the random drawing, comment on this question. Of the above lessons from dogs, what’s your favorite?


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Julie Benson has written five novels for Harlequin American, and her Wishing, Texas series is available from Tule Publishing. Now that her three sons have left the nest in Dallas, when she isn't writing, Julie spends her time working on home improvement projects, rescuing dogs, and visiting Texas wineries with her husband. Visit her at

48 thoughts on “Barks To Live By”

    • Abigail, now that you say that, I haven’t either! What’s odd is I have written two books with veterinarian characters. One is The Rancher and the Vet. The other is one of my Wishing Texas books, To Tame A Texas Cowboy. My hero Cooper is a vet. That story also has a service dog named Penny Lane.

      Thanks for stopping by today. Take care and stay safe.

    • Sabrina, I’m trying to do better with this one. If I have a lot on my mind or am stressed about something I let that spoil the present for me. Take care and stay safe.

    • Charlene, I agree that life is too short to hold a grudge. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to let more go. I stay away from conversations I know could be a problem, too, especially with my children. Thank you for stopping by. Take care and stay safe.

    • I think we don’t value loyalty enough. A friend who’ll defend us when others are talking about us behind our back. That person is a true gem. Thanks for stopping by today. Take care and stay safe.

    • Thank you for stopping by today. I remind myself I never know what someone else is going through that might affect their behavior. Often when we know what’s going on in someone’s life, it can make their actions look entirely different. Take care and stay safe.

    • Debra, thank you for stopping by to chat today. I have this theme in a lot of my books. For people who live far away from family or have horrible ones, creating a family of choice is so important. Take care and stay safe.

    • Teresa, I agree with you. My family of choice has gotten me through some difficult times. I don’t know what I’d do without them. That is one of my favorite themes to write about. Thank you for dropping by today. Take care and stay safe.

  1. Don’t hold a grudge/Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship/Leave the past in the past. Love this one but all of these are great things to live by. I don’t have a dog but I do have a cat that I am very fond of.

    • I think you get the benefits whether you have a cat or a dog. Except for the extra walking, that is! LOL. Not many people walk their cats. should’ve mentioned that. I also think cats show a lot of the characteristics like loyalty. Thank you for chatting with me today. Take care and stay safe.

  2. Love this one: Play and run daily—We need to have more fun!

    This year the Lord has opened the door for me to dog sit for my friends. I’m enjoy my “canine therapy”!

    • Caryl, I should’ve added pet sitting to my list of options if someone couldn’t have a pet! I love the play and run one too. I agree that we don’t have nearly enough fun. We don’t take off a day to simply have fun and recharge our batteries. If we’d do that, I think we’d be much healthier and happier. Thank you for stopping by today. Take care and stay safe.

    • Diana, you are so right. None of us are guaranteed we’ll have tomorrow. I’m trying to make the most of each day. Part of that for me is doing something that makes a memory, even if it’s a simple one, and that every day contains something to be grateful for. Thank you for reminding me of that. Take care and stay safe.

    • Anne, this is my big resolution for 2021. (Though I’m starting right now.) My problem is with fostering dogs, we may have as many as six dogs in our house. There’s no way we can walk that many dogs at once and if one dogs gets walked, all have to get one. Walking that many dogs even two at a times can take a long time. I need to figure out a system, because not walking isn’t good for anyone. Thank you for chatting today. Take care and stay safe.

    • Ruth, dogs amaze me with their loyalty. I think of the story Old Yeller, and how that dog sacrifices his life to save the people he loves. I always cry when I read that part. In fact, I’m tearing up writing this. Thank you for stopping by today. Take care and stay safe.

  3. Don’t Hold a grudge. Believe this is meaningful in order to live life fully. Dogs are true to their owner and family.

    • Laini, I think holding a grudge drains energy from us. It’s never good to hold onto that kind of negative energy. It eats at our souls. But I don’t think this means we need to keep toxic people in our lives. We should cut the ties, but let go of the anger, deal with the hurt, and move on. Thank you for your comment. Take care and stay safe.

  4. As an adoptive mother, the one that speaks to me the most is “Family doesn’t have to be blood.” . All are great bits of wisdom, though. I often wish I could be as loving and forgiving as our dogs are. 🙂

    • Adoptive families are a great example of how being connected “by blood” isn’t necessary to make a family. Anyone who is there for a child through life’s ups and downs, teaching and loving, is definitely a parent.

      I’m amazed how forgiving dogs are. We get fosters who’ve been abandoned or abused, and yet, they don’t give up on people. Their hearts are still open and loving.

      Thank you for your comment. Take care and stay safe.

  5. Julie, that sounds like a great book to have. I’m going to find it. So many great “sayings” and ideas you posted in your blog. When our Gr. Pyrenees, Embry, died about 2 1/2 years ago, my husband Gary said he would NEVER get another dog. Embry was “his” dog and they just had a special connection he thought would not ever happen again. I talked him into going to a small shelter in the town I was raised in, about an hour from Oklahoma City. Reluctantly, he went, grumbling the entire time. But when we walked in the dog that had “sort of” piqued his interest came out, walked right over to him, and sat on his foot. He looked up at Gary with those big brown eyes that said, “YOU ARE MINE.” Yes, he came home with us that day. And thank God for him, because there have been many days that he has sure pulled both of us out of the dumps and been such a source of love and enjoyment in so many ways. We adopted Max from the same shelter a few months later and they just love each other dearly. It’s been a great thing for all of us. Though we never forget the pets we had before, our hearts are HUGE and just expand even more when another dog (or cat!) comes into our lives. Loved this post.

    • Cheryl, I read your gotcha day post on one of your dogs, and I loved that! It’s hard when we lose our pets, but I can’t imagine not having one in my life. If I’m ever blessed enough to reach heaven, I want to ask God why our pets don’t have a longer life span. Thank you for your sweet comment.

  6. Live in the moment-EnjoyLife – Enjoy the journey. Life is way too short not to enjoy it for sure. One thing that I have known for ever and has really been reinforced especially in this COVID time is “Don’t Take anyone or Anything For granted” I agree pets are life savers and they are Great company. We have 1 pup and he makes me laugh and smile every single day. If we were all like dogs, this world would be much, much better and happier. Your list is so Very inspiring and it makes so very much sense, Thank you so much for sharing it. Have a Great day and stay safe. God Bless you and your family. Thank you so very much for the chance.

    • Alicia, I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. I had fun writing it. Pets have added so much joy to my life. And you’re right. If we were more like them our world would be a happier and kinder place. Thank you for your kind words. Take care and stay safe.

  7. Listen more than you speak! But then again, we Finns are known for our ability to keep our mouths shut!
    I haven’t read any books about dogs lately, but instead I’ve read books by James Bowen about him and his cat Bob. I’ve also seen the movie, A Street Cat Named Bob and I can’t wait to see A Gift from Bob.

  8. I love the saying on the mug. It goes along with “Live in the moment/Enjoy life/Enjoy the journey” which we learned long before we got any pets. As a military family, we learned to take advantage of every minute we had together and to explore everyplace we were lucky enough to live or to visit.

    I think what our dogs taught us and provided us was ” Everyone needs a hand to hold and a heart to understand.” They are there to snuggle up and just be with you. They understand your feelings if not your words. You are never alone with a dog who care for you. Not long after we got married, my husband was sent back to Vietnam. A few weeks later I discovered I was pregnant. Sadly, I miscarried at about 3 1/2 months after a serious fall. I happened to be dog sitting for a neighbor when I started having problems. I was lying on the sofa, not feeling well and Happy (the dog) came over and rested her head on my midsection and looked at me with soulful eyes. She barely knew me but was there knowing I needed comfort and freely giving it to me. All of the 10 dogs we have had have been wonderful companions and very attuned to us. The picture of your black lab made me miss our Olivia. She was our second dog and we had her 17 years. Of all the dogs we have had, she was my favorite. She was such a sweet, loving soul. I would take another lab in a minute. We fostered litters of puppies for several years and she was a “fail” from the first litter of 7 plus the mom. We fostered for several years and kept a terrier mix from the last litter we fostered. We lost her also after 17 years just last year.
    Thank you for the giveaway. The book sounds wonderful. Stay safe and healthy.

  9. It isn’t listed but my dog has a smile on their face very morning. I think people need to follow that-it starts your day happily.

  10. Fabulous blog. They all are fabulous. I would say that family does not have to be blood. As an only child, I learned this lesson very young. I have had numerous pets throughout my life. They have all been my best friends.

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