Life Lessons From Charlotte

Category: Weekly Columns

Charlotte is my wife’s dog. She’s a Weimaraner and she’s been through hell and back. But, she’s still livin’ life, lovin’ life, and her attitude is a lesson for us all. I love Charlotte. She has spunk and unlike the classic exchange from the Mary Tyler Moore” television show: “Lou: You know what? You’ve got spunk. Mary: Well, yes… Lou: I hate spunk.” Unlike Lou, I like spunk!

And, Charlotte has it and then some. How often do we remember the great things about friends and family that have passed on AFTER they’ve passed on? I believe in honoring the greatness in my friends and family while they’re still with us and thus I’m writing this column about the spunk, heart, and spirit of our beloved dog, Charlotte.

There are many lessons we humans can take from this dog. Living with her is a daily reminder to me of all the great things I have to be grateful for in my life. In no particular order, here are the lessons I’ve learned and continue to learn from Charlotte.

Everyone Is Dealt Their Own Deck of Cards – Good and Bad

We have little control over the cards we are dealt. We can bemoan the hand we’ve been given or we can accept it and live a joyful life. I think the classic AA motto fits so well for all of us and is worthy to live by:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. 

Let’s reflect a little on what our Charlotte has survived:

~~ A broken leg that never healed properly, resulting in a lifelong limp

~~ Abandonment by her first owners

~~ An infected eye that had to be removed

~~ Bad arthritis

~~ Tumors throughout her body; most benign but several requiring surgical removal

~~ Two infections right now, as a result of those surgeries

~~ Almost complete deafness

How would you handle those problems? Would you be wagging your tail everyday? Would you be coming up to your mom and dad and siblings with a kiss whenever you could? 

Choose to be Happy 

An offshoot of the first item on this list is the choice we all can make. We can choose to be happy or we can choose to be miserable. Choosing the latter makes those around us miserable, to a degree, as well. WHY make that choice? Why not choose to be grateful for the good in your life and make do with the bad?

I’ve often used the expression, “This too shall pass,” as many people do when comforting others that may be going through difficult times or upon the death of a loved one. It is true and it’s a good saying to try and live by. It’s also true for the good times. Those too tend to pass. Life is a roller coaster. But it is OUR choice to appreciate the good times and not let the bad times bring us down or those around us.

Charlotte obviously is a dog. How much she makes these choices is unknown and, frankly, doesn’t matter to me. I choose to see her as a walking example of how to live life well, in spite of hardships. I choose to bring these lessons from her to my own life and to share them with you.

Wag Your Tail

Okay, I mean this figuratively. But if you smile at those you encounter, that is the same as Charlotte wagging her tail at everyone she meets. You’ll brighten up the world around you and you’ll feel better yourself. Do it. Wag your tail!

When you’re in a bad mood, even for completely legitimate reasons, why not keep it to yourself? When you’re mad at someone, why not sleep on it and not act in the moment? You may feel differently after some reflection.

Charlotte comes home from surgery and doesn’t whine or complain. Yes, she’ll bite off her bandages because they irritate her, but then we just figure out a new way of putting them on her again.


Play is not just for kids. Play is for adults, too. Charlotte plays all the time. She’s an old lady now – thirteen – and that is very old for her breed. Her vet marvels that she’s still alive. We marvel and appreciate every day we have with her.

She likes to play. She has several toys she plays with that are scattered around the house. I’d say play, eating, sleeping, and going for walks are her favorite activities. Hmmm, maybe those could be our favorites, too? What do you think?

We human beings have a lot more choice in how we live our lives than dogs do. Charlotte may or may not have made some of these life choices that I’ve attributed to her. I don’t care. They are still GREAT lessons for all of us to live by.




  • Kelli Smithgall

    Absolutely beautiful and heartwarming post Bruce. 

    “Choose to be Happy” <= I *love* this. Choosing to be happy is hands-down a state of being that we create. My two oldest boys have asked me more than once how can I be happy when it seems more often than not, as they would say – I've been dealt so much crap. My answer to them is because I have so many more reasons to be happy, than to wallow in misery or fall into the 'why me' or 'whoa is me' pit. I tell them there are blessings in the midst of all circumstances and I choose to be happy, and I choose to look for those blessings.

    How you portrayed Charlotte's story with us is an amazing life lesson, thank you 🙂

    • Bruce Sallan

      TY Kelli. Indeed, Charlotte is an inspiration and being happy is OUR choice!

  • Janet Callaway

    Ahhhh, Bruce. Love it. We can learn so much from animals–both by the example Charlotte is setting as she lives her life as well as how they interact with each other.  Be it inter or intra species, animals treat each other better than we humans treat each other.

    Thanks for this beautiful post. Please give Charlotte a pet and a hug from me.  Aloha. Janet

    • Bruce Sallan

      I’m petting her right now JC, as she often lays next to me while I sit at my desk…

  • Anonymous

    Bruce, what I admire about you is your dedication to share your gratitude and love. You do it in our blogging community. You share it here with us. Naturally we can pull the lessons you share here and try them on in our own lives. As Dory sang, “Just keep swimming.”

    • Bruce Sallan

      Thanks Shawn…I love our community so very much. Learn so much from everyone. To me WE are what SoMe is ALL ABOUT!

  • Pingback: What’s New – February 13, 2012 | Bruce Sallan()

  • Prakash

    Read, Cry, Love! Dear Charlotte – You’re Love personified and a true inspiration to us 2-legged creatures too 🙂 Live on for as long as you can and continue to spread the fragrance of Love!

    • Bruce Sallan

      What a great comment, Prakash! TY so much! I’ll give Charlotte a hug from you!

  • Mrs @kevjkirkpatrick

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful “being” with us! She is a true inspiation

    • Bruce Sallan

      She is indeed, Mrs. K…

  • Maureen

    I will go all day thinking, “wag your tail”  what a lovely story.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Let’s start a catch-phrase, Maureen!

  • Pingback: Radio Show: Life Lessons From Charlotte and Creativity | Bruce Sallan()

  • Pingback: Hot and Sexy Dad, DadChat tonight | What's

  • Patrick

    Love this! It’s amazing how much dogs can teach us about how to live life, focus on happiness and play. 🙂

    • Bruce Sallan

      Thx @Patricksplace:disqus – we still miss her every day! And, TY for coming to our first #PetRap!