Big Heart In A Little Package: How My Dog Taught Me The Value Of Love

This year was the first time I went back to my hometown and wasn’t greeted by my dog Peeky. After being my best friend for 11 years, Peeky passed away.

When I couldn't see him wagging his tail in the window this time around, it made me think about how much he affected my life.

Aside from being a playful furry friend, I’ve realized my dog taught me some of the most important things about love.

He brought out the best in me.

From the very beginning, he was mine, and my 10-year-old self quickly had to learn how to care for another living being. I had to train him, feed him, walk him and make sure he was always taken care of, even when my family and I went on vacation.

Caring for Peeky taught me responsibility and accountability, and my efforts were rewarded with hours and hours of games of catch and peek-a-boo (how Peeky got his name).

I want to support the person I love and bring out the best in him, just as Peeky taught me.

He was fiercely protective.

He was a small dog, but he did all he could to protect me from “danger.” He would bark his head off at any visiting stranger and nip at people's heels when they came indoors. He wouldn't stop until I’d gently tell him, “It’s okay, Peeky.”

When my ex-boyfriend and I were still together, we'd get into play fights at my house. After hearing my squeals and thinking I was actually getting hurt, Peeky would growl, try to jump up and pull me out of my captor’s grasp.

I was just as much his as he was mine, and he would never let anything bad happen to me.

I want to be able to make the person I love feel just as safe and protected.

He never wanted to let me down.

Peeky was a quick learner. I taught him how to sit and speak without the use of treats. I think seeing my delight and excitement after he learned a new trick was enough for him.

He’d play with his toys for hours with me, even after I sensed he was bored with a game.

When I’d take him on a walk, it was routine for me to say, “Ready, set, go!” during the last few meters from home, and I'd race him up my driveway to the front door. It was my favorite part of our daily walks.

When he got older, slower and more easily exhausted, I’d feel badly about making him race me. But, he’d still try his best to run those last few steps home, never wanting to disappoint me.

I want the person I love to be able to trust that I’d never want to disappoint him.

He did what he could to comfort me, even if it didn’t seem like much.

After every heartbreak, bad day at work or school and argument with a friend, Peeky was always there for me. He’d always be able to sense I had gone through a difficult day, and he'd crawl into my lap and try to lick away the occasional tear.

He never pushed me to play with him, pet him, or do anything I didn’t feel like doing. He just sat there, and he let me know he was there for me.

I want to always be able to know exactly what the person I love needs whenever he has a bad day.

He waited for me.

Peeky got cancer when I was in college, but he was the same happy, enthusiastic dog every time I came home to visit.

When I traveled halfway around the world to do public health work in Kenya, though, his cancer took a drastic turn for the worse. My parents told me he was getting weaker.

It made me feel even farther away from home, and after I accepted that his passing away was inevitable, all I wanted to do was get to hug my best friend one last time.

My wish was granted. I flew home for Christmas, and even though he was sleepy and weak, he picked his head up off of his pillow and wagged his tail when I walked in the door.

That night, Peeky passed away. I don’t know how it was possible, but it happened. He knew I was coming home, and he waited for me.

I want the strength to always wait for the person I love, no matter how much time or how many miles separate us.