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Pandemic Puppy Wisdom: Lessons from an Unexpected Source

By Marcia Smalley November 02, 2020 Mindset

“Both light and shadow are the dance of Love.” —Rumi

We knew what bringing home a puppy means because we’d done it before. (And that time we had brought home two!) We had no illusions: puppies are a lot of work, they demand most of your time, it won’t be easy.

We did have some expectations: puppy kisses outweigh puppy bites, you can catch up on missed sleep, puppies can be taught what they need to know.

What’s followed in the last six months with our Howie the Havanese has been all of the above and more. Because what I didn’t count on was that this amazing creature would teach me so much about the shades of life.

pandemic puppy

Pandemic Puppies

“Only in darkness can you see the stars.” —Martin Luther King Jr.

A lot’s being written now about the effects the pandemic is having on our emotional and mental well-being. We’ve been living in a state of extreme uncertainty. Shadows that border on real darkness.

Many of us have welcomed “pandemic puppies” into our homes. What better way to spend long stretches of time than nurturing a life and receiving unconditional love in return!

Enter Howie, who not only doesn’t allow us to dwell much on the outside world, he moves through it with gusto, oblivious that anything is out of order. He welcomes every day with an inspiring eagerness. He believes that his behaviors are all quite appropriate, thank you very much, and everything is a lot of fun in his world.

There Was a Little Girl Who Had a Little Curl…

The rhyme from our childhood clearly spells out that goodness can be “very, very good,” but when things are bad, they’re “horrid.” That about sums up 2020. 

We’ve excavated all our blessings, and we count them on a regular basis. We cherish small moments. We relish the simple pleasures. We’re tuning in to what really matters to us.

Even if we haven’t lost our livelihoods, our health, or people we loved, we’re exhausted and stretched to our limits. We suffer “pandemic meltdowns” and have our bad days. Emotions surface that we try to tamp down.

I watch Howie move like lightening from sitting like a “good boy” to dashing down the hall and bounding up on the sofa, clenching a pillow in his jaws. I see flashes of light and shadow flickering so closely together they’re almost indistinguishable.

When he is good, he’s divine. When he is naughty, he’s a bitter pill. And he can flip from one to the other in an instant. He’s in a constant state of movement and change… up, down, sideways. Just like life.

The Light Never Disappears

Chocolate and white. Cookies and cream. Howie wears a blanket of espresso except for some pops of white around his eyes, neck, and muzzle.

His dark cocoa coat has single strands of white hair sprinkled throughout that resemble those first few grey hairs some of us would pluck until we realized that was an exercise in futility. His underside is white. Save for his legs, you don’t fully see that until he flips over in surrender and trust.

Howie’s love shines through his piercing amber eyes.

The Light is always there, but sometimes it’s not apparent right away. Despite our dark days, even during the dark night of our souls, there’s the promise of Light surrounding us. 

Surrendering to what we cannot change and trusting that we are well in this moment is often all we can do. 

On every level, the last six months have been a series of delights laced with more than a few tears. 

Going in, we knew a few things for sure: patience and consistency are key, laughter and joy are priceless, we have room in our lives for more love.

Something we didn’t expect: our pandemic puppy is a Zen master. He’s wise and playful, a teacher who brought the glue to hold our family trio together when our edges become frayed. A Light that keeps the shadow in perspective and shines Love in all directions.

I’m honored to be his student. And very grateful.

What are you learning about the ups and downs, light and shadow, of life in 2020? Who (or what) have been your teachers? Please join the conversation!

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The Author

Marcia Smalley is a certified retirement coach and life coach, a writer and a teacher. She delights in helping mid-life women step confidently into their next act and design a joyous, expanded life. Marcia provides coaching support to women who are navigating retirement or other life transitions and writes a monthly e-newsletter to her entire online community. Please visit her website at

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