Sabrina passed away years ago. She was my first dog as an adult. When I tell you she was a yellow lab I am sure it conjures up thoughts of the misbehaving bad dog that worms her way into everyone’s heart. Sabrina was never bad but she had a few moments when she was young.

In an act of tremendous responsibility and maturity, my young wife Debbie and I picked out Sabrina from a litter of pups owned by a friend. We stopped by so I could give the pups a once over and make health recommendations. After my advice was handed out we found ourselves driving home with an eight week old pup who was almost pure white except for the sprinkling of caramel on the tips of her ears. Considering that we had no idea this would happen we were scrambling that evening to have a setup befitting our new child. We had a couple of corded throw rugs and lovingly made a bed to house her for the evening. I woke up very early the next morning thinking that I have found the most perfect puppy because she didn’t make a peep the entire night. When I turned the corner to her bed I found out why. Sabrina sat in the middle of what I can only describe as an evening of hard work with a beaming look of pride. It was difficult to believe that the mass of yarn present had ever fit into two small rugs. Truthfully, I believe we could have made cardigan sweaters for the entire Osmond family.

Sabrina became the dog who caringly ran our family. Steve, the older of my two sons came along shortly after we brought Sabrina home. When it came time for Steve to learn to walk we had a willing hand. He steadied himself with the help of Sabrina’s tail. She was already so devoted to him that whenever he fell down, she would back up to him so he could grab on and stand up.

As a young family in the early 1980’s we eagerly joined the fitness craze and became devoted runners. Sabrina led the way, even if it was only for the first hundred yards. I never knew how all of that energy could be harnessed in a fifty pound body. It was all I could do to hang on. Thankfully, once the original thrill of the run wore off she settled into a trot by our sides. I still think of how thoughtful she was. Never wanting to slow our pace she mastered the fine art of pooping on the run. I would like to tell you that I was the responsible pet owner and picked it up. It is biodegradable right?

Sabrina taught me a lesson in her passing that will always stick with me. At the time of her death our family lost my brother, my wife’s father and her grandmother. During all of this I should have done a better job speaking to my two sons about their own grief. It wasn’t until my oldest son applied for college a few years later that I realized the impact Sabrina’s loss had on him. He wrote a poem that was included in one of his applications. The poem underscored how important she was to him and our family and it made me realize how important it is to include your children in such discussions. The age of the child can be used to frame the discussion but avoidance is always worse. Both Steve and Sabrina taught me a valuable lesson that I now share with my clients.

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