The measure of our lives cannot be found in our accomplishments or accumulations, but rather in the smiles we leave behind after we are gone. Most of us circle back to that conclusion periodically, but we spend most of our time focused on getting to the next of life’s mile markers. We forget to look up, look around, and just be.
Riding a bike can help us slow down and be part of the world we inhabit rather than just rush through it. On a bike we are exposed and have time to smell, hear, see and interact with the world as we roll through it. Still, it is too easy for our thoughts to veer from the simple act of pedaling circles and obsess about something in the past or future. Commuting and training can become routine, and before we know it, we are thinking about what we have to do when we get to work rather than enjoying the ride there.
In a world where our phones and computers stutter reminders at us of what we need to do 10 minutes before we need do it so we don’t forget something “important,” dogs remind us we are loved and to love in return. After even the busiest day, coming home to a joyous greeting forces us to stop, smile, say hello, get some love and give some back. Dogs are so unabashedly adoring of us and so shamelessly needy, that we cannot help but live in the moment when we are with them. They remind us to enjoy the ride rather than race for the destination.
Then our dogs leave us, and even when we see it coming, it hurts. We cannot help but pour pained goodbyes through a bittersweet mixture of salty tears and sweet memories as we see them off. Yet somehow, not very long after our eyes dry, we remember that wagging tail and a bunch of silly little things they did, and we smile.
Recently, my dear friends John and Linsey said goodbye to Chloe after 16 years of her daily reminders that she loved and needed them. It was her time to go, and I’m sure she left with no regrets. Chloe was certainly among the best of us, and I count myself a richer man for all the smiles she left with me.