Posted by: Shanie Matthews | March 15, 2010

Lessons From My 15 Year Old Canine Son

Today is my canine son, Bergen’s, 15th birthday.

This special and monumental moment is shining even brighter because he is vibrant with life. His spunk, get-up-and-go, happy-go-lucky attitude at 105 human years is so inspirational. His zest and unconditional ability to be happy everyday has helped me exercise my happiness.

In fact, in reality, Bergen has taught me so much in the last decade and a half. He has helped me become a better person.

From the first moment I met him in Lake Tahoe at the dog pound, when he put his little paw on the chain link fence and then his chin on his paw, and just looked up at me with his big, brown eyes, I knew that this was a special soul.

So, in gratitude, appreciation and respect for my oh-so-wise canine kiddo, I would like to give homage to some of the lessons that he has taught me on our path together…

1. Communicate your feelings. Yelling is not acceptable…I was 21 when I got Bergen, and at that point in my life, had learned very little about the art of truly communicating. My surroundings had taught me that anger, yelling and fighting were the norm. The first time that happened with Bergen around, he ran away. And each time thereafter. For him there was no excuse to fight. And if you were going to go to that level of human emotion, than he wanted absolutely nothing to do with it.

2. No swearing. I am still not so sure how Bergen could distinguish swear words from other words, but Bergen would become immediately offended if he heard swear words in conversation (this changed a few years ago, with his loss of hearing). It didn’t matter if the words were spoken in a sweet tone of voice, something I tested a few times to see his reaction. If the word f&^% or sh*& came out of someone’s mouth it was time for Bergen to leave the room.

3. Go for a hike or walk everyday. It doesn’t have to be a long trek, but, even today at 15, Bergen does his daily “pimp” for a walk. There are days when life seems so busy that a walk is the last thing that seems possible to do, but once I am out in the forest with Bergen I remember why it is so important. It brings us all back to our center; it is our grounding time. And I truly believe that it is a vital part to Bergen’s incredible health today.

4. Pay attention to your intuition. Bergen has long been my barometer of a person’s true character. Within a few seconds of Bergen meeting someone his intuition tells him whether this is a person he wants to get to know more, or not. His internal belief system has never been wrong. Each person that he has been a bit wary of, in the end, deserved the treatment.

5. Take care of those that take care of you. Every day Bergen puts a smile on my face. In fact, our one of many nicknames for him is “The Glue”. He truly has an uncanny way of taking care of me at all times, in both thick and thin.  And in return, I spend time assuring his happiness and health. I make him homemade food. I give him daily massages. Family time is a daily affair. His unconditional love has taught me so much about giving to those that show appreciation in return. It has been a pleasure giving Bergen the royal treatment that he deserves, because he gives it back to me tenfold.



  1. Happy Birthday, Bergen! What a handsome and sweet dog!

  2. Thanks Dawn! He sends you a big wet kiss of appreciation. (:

  3. […] that I write this post. My best friend, daily companion for the last 15 years, and canine kiddo, Bergen, has moved on to the […]

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