Growing up, I was always a “dog person.” Maybe this was because my family never owned any pets other than dogs, but regardless, my childhood was happily riddled with fur removal rollers, poop bags and long walks to the dog park.

There’s something really unique about a dog’s abounding devotion, making you feel like the most important person in the world as you return home from a stressful day. One of the hardest things I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is that the world generally doesn’t care whether you’re happy or sad, excited or scared– but a dog does.

All this to say: I’ve benefitted a lot from living with a hairy, smelly, yet lovable creature. It wasn’t until very recently, however, that I began to appreciate dogs for more than their dopey smiles and profusely wagging tails.

One weeknight, as I sat in bed listening to an unusually loud Texas thunderstorm, I began to hear a faint tapping on the outside of my door. The instant I heard the accompanying whimper I knew it was our yellow Labrador, Topher. Thunderstorms were the epitome of fear in his mind, and he would routinely self-destruct upon such an occasion.

Reluctantly, I rolled out of bed to open the door for this quivering creature. He looked at me with a certain humbling desperation that I would not soon forget. Eagerly leaping onto my bed, he curled up next to me as if he were a 10-pound puppy again.  

In that moment I saw true fear. Desperate, clingy, hopeless fear. It was sad, but in a sort-of cute way. Because I’ve been given the gift of basic knowledge and reason, I am aware that thunderstorms will eventually fade with few major consequences. This dog, however, had no earthly idea. For all he knew, the world could be coming to a grim end before his eyes.

What’s interesting is, animals generally have little to no knowledge of the outcomes of most things. This is why a dog will whimper and whine even when their owner promises to be gone only for a brief moment. I wonder what my life would look like if I approached it with that kind of simplicity.

In the fast-paced, constantly progressing culture that is America today, it’s hard to avoid the prominent “bigger is better” mentality. That being: the more information you have about everything, the better. The obvious question is: how much is too much?

To be clear, I’m all for progress. Progress is a good thing. Progress has made possible the ability to travel around the world and experience new cultures. It has also provided a path to breakthroughs in modern medical science, ultimately saving millions of lives. 

I think we are all naturally inclined to crave progress. However, progress to one person looks entirely different to another. This is where most people get lost: trying to know everything about everything.

Sometimes it’s perfectly okay to not have all the answers. In fact, life might be a little more fun if it were less predictable. Regardless of the thunderstorms in our lives, there is an innate, authentic beauty in the sudden circumstances where we simply exist in the present.

Existential life lessons from my middle-aged Yellow Labrador: Good boy, Topher.