Lessons Learned from an Adorkable Black Lab

My adorkable black lab died unexpectedly and from unknown causes on Saturday. As you can imagine, I am grieving. As a way to honor him, my cousin suggested I think about what I learned from Fonzie. I’ve decided to share that with you.

Not knowing the exact cause of Fonzie’s sudden death has plagued me. Until I finally realized that the only real reason I wanted to know was so that I could know a) how much to blame myself (or others) and b) how much to punish myself. Since that is wholly counterproductive, I’m going to stop wondering. It’s also not what Fonzie would want. He doesn’t want me wallowing in woulda-coulda-should’ves. Instead, here’s what he taught me.

Learn from your past, but don’t regret your mistakes. It only took a couple times of having his nose swiped by a cat before Fonzie realized he needed to give them a wide berth. Regret is wasted energy; it feeds the anguish and keeps me focused on what went wrong rather than on how to move forward. Learning from our mistakes, yes, that is helpful. Languishing in regret isn’t. The present is all we have.

Now, that said, Fonzie didn’t always learn from his mistakes. No matter how many rocks, moss, dirt, or rotten food he ate, it never occurred to him that maybe that was the cause of his upset stomach. Understanding cause and effect as it applied to his appetite … that gene was missing.

Greet everyone like a potential best friend. Fonzie never met a stranger. He was my ambassador to all my neighbors and smoothed over a lot of my crankiness. All the kids who passed our house on the way to school loved him. He taught them that big dogs don’t have to be scary. He also treated homeless people with the same enthusiasm as the neighbors we saw every day.

Own your dorkness. Even though his namesake was the epitome of cool, Fonzie was, by far, the biggest dork of a dog I’ve ever owned. Sometimes he stepped on his own leash and couldn’t figure out why he couldn’t move. When he carried his leash in his mouth, which he liked to do, it would often trip him. He ate rocks and then puked them up. When I was eating, he would pick up a shoe and try to climb into the chair shoving the shoe in my face, as if he wanted to trade me -- a stinky shoe for a plate of food because CLEARLY shoes were valuable.

I’m sure there’s more he taught me, but let this suffice for now.

Rest in peace, Fonzie.

June 18, 2011 - March 20, 2021

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