How Great Thou Part

Let’s face it. Relationships are chock full of expectations. We enter them and wait for people to show us exactly how much they love us.

Birthdays? They just amp it up. Consider them expectation on steroids.

I remember in the early years of my marriage hearing a knock at my front door. I swing the door open to find my sister standing on the stoop of my townhouse.

“What are you doing here?” I ask.

“I think, at a minimum you deserve a cake on your birthday,” she says.

I am surprised she has driven more than an hour to deliver me this sweet confection. After all, we not only live too far away from one another to make this daily trip, we are now grown. adults. The age where we are supposed to make loving ‘on the actual day’ birthday calls and polite other day arrangements to celebrate them. Thus, making room for our now full family lives.

This sums up my marital birthdays. They simply didn’t exist. 

My husband used to say, “My family didn’t celebrate birthdays. They weren’t a big deal to us.”

To which I would respond, “That’s fine. I respect your feelings and therefore, on your birthday we do not need to celebrate. My family, however, made a ridiculous fuss and birthdays’ were just one sloppy, overexaggerated  love-fest. Therefore, on my birthday I would like to celebrate it.”

14572358_356883944659816_666108003208968309_nMy husband continued to reject the notion. Hence, several years into my marriage why I greet my cake yielding sister on my doorstep.

The funny thing? Periodic milestones, such as holidays can make us realize what is otherwise missing in our relationships.

Sure, everyone celebrates differently. Only we weren’t celebrating and transitioning our family differences. I was being ignored. The fact of the matter is I was also being ignored on an average day. It just took a day where I demanded temporary attention to comprehend that reality.

I celebrated my birthday this past weekend.

Family and friends made me the priority my husband somehow found too difficult. I politely declined their invitations for a variety of reasons. I didn’t say I wouldn’t celebrate. That, in my opinion, would be ungrateful and controlling. Instead, I asked if we could celebrate on a day other than my actual birthday.

I know it seems strange. To actually find comfort in being alone on your birthday while divorcing. I mean, shouldn’t divorcing birthdays be a depressing realization that you are actually literally alone?

Not for me. It is empowering to have zero expectations of love. I watched for that expectational pot to boil for years. And you know what they say about a watched pot.

I wake on Saturday morning. On my original  ‘entrance to the world’ day.

I have a type of peace I have not known while married. There are no false expectations. No sadness. No sense of living with someone yet feeling completely alone. I do not need nor want to go out. Instead, I relish the sense of control I have in my own special day.

I scroll through Facebook. My sister posts one of my baby pictures. This is not my cake yielding sister. It is my other sister. She too is showing up at my proverbial front door. I know her well. This is no innocent gesture of sibling birthday love. She purposely picks a baby pic of me to remind me of who I am. A smile so big my eyes are just barely visible.

She reminds me why my mom always said, “Colleen has joie de vivre.”

I stare at that pic. I smile. I am alone yet no longer alone. 

I am returning to the days of sloppy, over-exaggerated love-fests. 

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It was Bob Marley who said, “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.” 

No one wants to determine the degree of courage they are capable of. It’s frightening to question the unknown depths of our strength. To face a journey we can’t fathom traveling. To stare down the villains of grief, divorce, lost jobs, addiction, and more.

bodybuilder-weight-training-stress-38630The doubt within us lurks believing others have the strength superpower. We believe we were absent while the capes were being handed out.

Nonetheless, it is inevitable the day will come when as Bob Marley said, “Being strong is your only choice.”

How then do we survive the most difficult challenge’s God has designed to shape us, deliver our purpose, increase our emotional muscle and lead us closer to Him?

1. Faith:

We must become spiritual bodybuilders when life severely tests us. God is our ultimate source of strength. It is God who walks in when the rest of the world walks out. Each time the burdens increase we must continue lifting them up towards God until the weight seems easier to lift.

This is easier said than done. We feel left alone when experiencing pain. This sense of isolation can often make us feel abandoned even by God. Of course, this isn’t true and the more we experience this type of suffering, the more we feel compelled to turn towards Him. Thus, internally igniting a far deeper peace and fortitude.

2. Family:

The love of family fortifies our spirit. It generates a bravery within us just realizing  love-filled armor surrounds us. This safety net reminds us there are those who will never abandon us even despite our troubles. The ones in our life who accept our weaknesses and mistakes. Even better? They are willing to roll up their sleeves and aid us in tackling our problems. To fill in the gaps in our lives when our hardiness temporarily evades us.

Love is the most powerful source of strength next to God.

3. Overcoming Obstacles:

In a time of crisis or in ordinary time, the might of removing obstacles builds our emotional energy. It does this boulder by boulder and day by day. It can be an arduous and slow process depending on how we are being tested. The first several challenges may appear daunting, yet with time they lose their “Giant” like status as we break them down one by one.

Our sturdiness elevates as we greet setbacks and problems which we once feared. The end result is a substantial boost to our self-esteem and self-reliance. Confidence steamrolls weakness.


pexels-photo-1364104. Heartache and Enduring Pain:

Heartache and enduring pain build some of our most powerful muscle. They proffer  the tears that manifest the erosion of weakness. This type of brawn is earned by the unbearable endurance of the heart traveling a terrifying road. It requires the heart to be involuntarily compelled to face an unimaginable truth.

The prolonged suffering eventually circumvents vulnerability and empowers us. Somehow we have survived the unimaginable. We derive a sense of durability from this devastating pain.

5. Building Something New:

Whether provoked by the necessity of hardship or inspired by simple change, constructing new world heights promises increased resilience. When we tackle something new we are building additions to our core internal housing. It is a sad reality that heartache can result in forced changes in our lives. It may require a new job or a move or many other demands. Often, producing options we may not have otherwise chosen for ourselves.

The ability to commandeer these new experiences continue to layer our Legos of confidence. We become stronger realizing that even while experiencing intense vulnerability we have persevered.


The inevitable truth is our own fragility inspires renewed vigor. It is in our most powerless moments where we learn to pack the hardest punch against self-doubt. Fear peels back the layers of our being. It offers an inventory of what truly scales our lives with love and meaning.

Fear prohibits strength and therefore, God ensures we become the people of empowered purpose He means us to be.


(Photos courtesy of Pexels)

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I walk behind my chocolate lab, Hazel. Surprisingly, I notice her waddle is gone and her wiggle is back.

Hazy is modeling the obvious rewards of her low carb, pre-measured food, and occasional veggie diet.

Sadly, I can’t say the same for her doggie momma.

IMG_7361“It’s a big day,” I think to myself (actually I may have said it out loud) – I admit, I talk to my dog. Can you blame me? After all, with my divorce, she has become one of the more sizable (I can never resist a pun) relationships in my life.

“Hazy, you must be down at least five to six pounds! A whole doggie ‘clothing’, I mean ‘collar size,'” I say or ‘think.’

Hazel and I meet up with the neighbors, both hers and mine. Hazy’s go by the likes of Bear, Charlotte, Bruin, and Gretchen. Bruin her chocolate lab counterpart is feeling the excitement of the crisp fall air and before we know it he is off. And with that, so is Hazel’s collar. Whadda know? She’s gotten so skinny her clothes are falling off of her.

Thankfully, it’s a quick run and they circle back to the ‘hood’ pack – both pooches and humans.

That settles it! Every self-respecting girl needs to show off her hard-earned curves and my Hazy is no exception.

I make my way back up the driveway and into the house. Hazel slurps some water in true lab fashion (there I go again) making sure to saturate as much of the hardwood as possible. She collapses into said water as she sprawls across the floor exhausted from her workout.

I head back out the door. No need to take her along for the ride because of course, with this much weight loss she would want to try on everything. And let’s just say they love her at the local doggie boutique just not how much she tends to ‘talk’ there. It seems her mommy and her have more in common than just needing to lose a few ‘lbs.’

I park and make my way into the store. I spy a cute little matching outfit in Hazel’s fave color. Okay, so it’s my favorite color. One of us chickies has to be decisive and pink will play well with her chocolatey brown coat. A new princess dog tag is the perfect accessory. I throw my goods up on the counter and slap a treat there as well. Come on! In between the meager dry food rationed with a tablespoon of canned pumpkin twice a day, I would say she’s earned it.


I walk through the door of the house and Hazel pummels me. Her dieting nose a step ahead of the bags I carry in with me.

The tags come off and on go the new clothes. Whadda know? They fit perfectly.

No self-respecting girl sits at home in a new outfit. We take off down the street in search of Hazy’s boyfriend. ‘Bear,’ the muscular rottweiler. We say ‘hello’ and head back towards home. Hazel’s new wiggle leading the way.

A minor disclaimer…Hazel didn’t consent to the ‘before and after’ pics. 


(Dog’s Dramatic Weight Loss – Before and After: Dog Loses 5 Pounds)


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It is early, at least for this morning resistant night owl. I enter the room of women. The candles which my friend has lit adding calm to the already relaxed vibe. I reposition the mat. I stretch towards ‘downward dog’ while peeking to make sure I am doing this thing called yoga correctly.

It’s hard for this writer to shut down her mind on a good day let alone through the midst of a divorce. Amazingly, this meditative stretching unclutters the internal noise.

pexels-photo-24746First, let me say yoga is not the mild sport of stretching which I envisioned it to be. There is a reason for Adam Levine’s hunky arms. Okay, all of hunky Adam.

I continue as my yoga teacher instructs. I struggle. My arms buckle under the weight of my body. There is conscious awareness of my lack of strength.

Why do we over-exercise our minds and under-exercise our bodies?

Throughout some of the best of times of my life, I worked out four days a week and wore a bikini. I know, don’t judge. I could actually pull it off a few years ago or perhaps, anything goes at the Jersey Shore. Regardless, I took care of my physical being while my emotional being was good.

I feel an elevated awareness of my entire physical presence. I twist into each pose and am forced to utilize all of my parts even though body fights against it. 

There has been a contradiction to my approach to divorce healing. Of course, I realize this and have all along. Obviously, it’s difficult to achieve optimum emotional health while your body is physically dragging you down. Nonetheless, ask anyone who has suffered the trauma (yes, trauma) of divorce and they will attest the wine workout to be the most strenuous exercise whence tears replace sweat.

I think back to the beginning of my divorce, my internist actually suggested yoga. 

“Yoga?” I protested with a laugh. “Actually instigating more quiet time for all these stressful thoughts???? That doesn’t seem like a very good idea!”

pexels-photo-172748I collapse. I am relieved my body can align itself with the gloriously flat floor. I close my eyes and listen to the calming meditative words of my instructor. I am caught off guard. The others in the room that I intently observed for fear of doing ‘it’ wrong and of course, for embarrassing myself, have disappeared.

I am transported to another place and time. I am six years old the cool grass beneath me gazing upward. The world seems limitless. It seems exciting. It seems hopeful.

At the same time, there is a peacefulness. A quiet this writer’s mind has been searching for.

Turns out this yoga thing, works the way it’s ‘POSE’d’ to.


(Photos courtesy of Pexels)
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silver-bordered-fritillary-butterfly-nature-orange (1)

Love is in the air.

The birds are chirping. The sky is blue. The butterflies have taken residence.

Make sure while hearts flutter, the feet are planted or in other words, grounded long after the butterflies flee the coop.

Choose a person who centers their being around the following powerful foundational truths:

1. God comes first in their lives:

How do you ensure you have chosen someone who has a great capacity to endure life’s challenges together? The type of person who doesn’t simply survive but thrives through ‘in good times and in bad?’ Find an individual who leads their entire world with God first.

This does not necessarily mean a churchgoer or someone who claims a particular religion. This means a person who lives a life centered around God in everything they do and not by a label or one hour a week. The type of individual who has a servant’s heart and is guided by spirituality and purpose.

A person who is rooted in faith will recognize the hardships as shaping both their lives and their relationships. They will be more likely to roll up their sleeves rather than roll out the door.

2. Family is at the core of their lives:

A family is an immeasurable source of strength. They teach us a great deal about loving and being loved. A person who is close to their family will have a strong sense of priorities. They will generally have the foundation to choose the people they love over less important things, such as career and success when the need arises.

A family that shares a genuine emotional intimacy with one another will band together through thick and thin. Additionally, these types of families derive an honest joy in their togetherness rather than view the family as a commitment to be kept.

A person whose family is at the core of their being is shaped by love and loyalty and will prioritize you properly in their lives.

3. They live their values rather than speak them:

A person who has a substantial dedication to their values is unmistakable. They are often easy to describe because their values are demonstrated in their actions. When that individual’s name comes up in conversation, they will be characterized as generous, kind, thoughtful, honest, loyal, etc.

In general, it is not uncommon for people to have a set of values they live by. The caveat here? Are they acting on them or judging other people by them? Another thing to take into consideration? Fun people can often be charming. It’s important to watch behavior long after the clock has struck midnight.

People who authentically live their values do not need to verbally explain them. In a relationship with this type of individual, you will be treated to that same high standard.

4. They believe in acts of service:

A person who lives outside their four walls has a larger world-view. This, in turn, will give them a bigger sense of the relationship and not a severely self-focused view. This much like values is acting not speaking. It is someone who doesn’t say they are close to their family, it is someone who drives to have lunch with their mother. It is someone who doesn’t see a neighbor struggling to move something, it is someone who stops to help move it.

It is an elevated consciousness. A critical component of someone with an especially keen ability to fully love another person.

The four foundational qualities above should also be seen as the action verbs they are…

Loving God, Loving family, Living values, and Living service.

These exemplify a foundational essence of enriched love. These qualities are key in spotting a person who will love and prioritize their spouse. Thus, leaving more time for blue sky carrying butterflies to return.

(Photos courtesy of Pexels)
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I know a wise Catholic priest I like to call ‘Father Hope.’ I have told him this is how I refer to him because he is such a source of Catholic inspiration in my life. He is both a spiritual giant and a master storyteller.

I turn the sound up on my computer and listen intently to one of his sermons. He speaks (and I paraphrase) of how Jesus led his apostles directly into the storm. Why, would Jesus do that? He knew the storm was coming, yet they still set off. When they are tossed about and frightened, the apostles say simply, “Lord, Save Helpless.”

‘Father Hope’ goes on (again I paraphrase) to say we will all face storms. We will all feel helpless. However, often we let our egos get in the way. God leads us into the storm so we will lean on him. So that we can let go of our egos and pray as the apostles did, “Lord, Save Helpless.” It is in surrendering we will achieve unshakable peace.
He closes with an impactful thought, “You know what it takes for God get through to our hearts? Heartache.”

I am reminded of another one of my favorite ‘Father Hope’ sermons. Where he speaks such a powerful sentence, I take the time to write it down.

“The intersection of our lives and God’s grace is at the point of weakness.” – Father Hope

Those words still bring tears to my eyes. They shed such undeniable beauty in the midst of our ugliest burdens. And remind us God is leading us both in and out of our storms.

(Photos courtesy of Pexels)
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I am watching television, Code Black to be specific.

No one loves the eighties as much as I do but it was full of questionable hair, questionable clothes, and questionable music. Rob Lowe, however, makes the decade worth revisiting. The producers of Code Black evidently agree.

It’s week three of Rob Lowe. No, it’s glorious week three of Rob Lowe.

I imagine Code Black may live to see higher ratings or at the very least another season. He’s the quintessentially dreamy new addition to this medical series.

I’m fairly certain I need a ratings hike in my own personal drama. I need a Rob Lowe. Either the ‘actual’ Rob Lowe or at the very least, a euphemism for what his wonder could bring into my world. To be specific, I need a rewrite along with the character the producers would cast in order to save my drama.


I consider my new fangirl Rob Lowe obsession a somewhat positive milestone in my divorcing life.

After all, my relationship woes have manifested into what I refer to as romantic movie ADD. I have spent the better part of this divorce furiously flipping channels. I am one extreme to another, either Lifetime movie affairs and betrayals to the feel-good Hallmark Channel where high school sweethearts reunite and knights in shining armor rescue modern day damsels.

My current fixation with Code Black means I may be finding balance back on network television.

No longer in need of the contrast from tragically sad to eternally happy endings.

I am making progress.

I may soon be ready for my real life Rob Lowe.

(Photo courtesy of Pexels)
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In the worst part of my marital strife, I became frustrated that my husband demanded the majority of my attention.

The more he refused to continue in counseling, the bigger the problems became and the longer they endured. My children’s lives were interrupted. I wanted to fix things. I wanted to address the problems. I wanted to resume my life as a mother.

I would often say to him, “I have children to raise, stop taking all of my attention because they deserve it.”

Of course, I am now wise enough to realize I couldn’t make my husband want to fix things or address his behavior. That is a personal decision we each have to make in life. I naively believed that because we were a family he would choose what was best for our entire team.

When we are a part of something bigger than ourselves, we have a responsibility to do our personal best.
In essence, that is why getting married and having children is so intimidating. We understand we are elevating ourselves to a championship lifestyle. And we better be up for raising the stakes on who we are as players.

If we do not, we will disappoint the rest of the team. A team that can’t possibly achieve their personal best when one individual is weighing them down. We look for leaders only by nature a team should be able to operate without a star if every player brings it.

Think of a baseball metaphor. Each person is in position and then the first baseman steps off the field while the game is in play. The pitcher then has to pitch and cover first base. They no longer have the luxury of being the best pitcher their team needs them to be. They are being overly responsible for another player and under-responsible for themselves. The whole team is off.
My husband stepped off of the field. I kept waiting for him to come back. The entire time that we were down a player the focus was on our missing man. It wasn’t on each other or playing our personal best as a team. It was overcompensating and surviving the confusion. We could have done this for an inning, maybe a few, maybe even an entire game, but it went on for several seasons.

We were not doing well as a team. As a mother and a pitcher, I needed to be able to focus my attention on the bases, on my children.

In sports, we learn that players need to be selfless when the play calls for it. They have to sacrifice personal glory for the team win.

Even in divorce, this still frustrates me. My children deserved to have my attention. They deserved to have both of their parents personal best. We knew when we committed there would be championship games when the play dictated we would have to train harder.

The chances of creating a strong team are diminished by selfish players and by those who refuse to play their personal best. They drag down the ones showing up every day who are positive, selfless and want to play in the game more than anyone else because everyone knows that truly great teams are just like family.

(Photos courtesy of Pexels)
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Everyone has a certain degree of ego. The question is how immense is that ego? A huge ego can cause a tremendous amount of strife and frustration in a relationship. It can also create a great divide in a couple.

Thus, endangering the overall happiness or longevity of a relationship.

Ego is the essentially the act of putting one’s self above all else. There is a reason that pride is considered one of the deadly sins.

Another way to view it? Ego wants to win. It is contradictory to love.

When one loves another person it should be centered around that love. Love is not a battle to win or lose. Sadly, once a couple matures, their communication can become increasingly immature.
What is perhaps most ironic, is many marriage ceremonies quote the following scripture:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4

And as time marches on, they forget these wise words.

6 Signs of Ego in a Relationship:

1. A person who needs to be right:

The person one loves should be far more important than being right. Unfortunately, when an individual allows ego to get in the way of love, they will choose themselves and the need to be right, above anyone else.

This makes love a battleground. There needs to be a winner and a loser. It’s completely opposed to the entire basis of choosing to be a couple.

2. A person who needs to be in control:

This does not mean occasional control. It’s normal for a person to have certain preferences and as a couple to compromise what’s important to one another.

This is overwhelming control. Again, putting one person’s needs above the other person. Hence, allowing ego to make one choose what and how they believe things should be done over love.

3. A person who will shut their spouse down in the middle of a conversation:

Ego doesn’t respect the opinions of others. In fact, ego will present the need to shut down the opinions of others especially if those opinions differ.

This is intolerance and worse, it is intolerance for the one a person supposedly loves most in life.
4. A person who will refuse to talk about certain topics:

An individual with a strong ego will refuse to engage in topics they do not want to discuss. It could be a controversial topic such as religion or politics or family. It might also be something they generally refuse to agree with, such as a move, a financial decision, etc.

The need to decide what is acceptable and not acceptable is the action of one and contrary to the concept of two as a couple.

5. A person who will refuse to resolve conflict:

There are other reasons that people will avoid conflict resolution. A pleaser or an avoider may behave this way.
The ego filled individual is refusing to make things right, not avoiding it.

They can stay angry or in an argument for a long time and it doesn’t bother them nor do they feel a sense of urgency to repair things.

The inflated ego opts to defiantly take a stand against the one they love. Again, another counter-intuitive action towards love.

Relationships can be effortless and conversely, they can require great attention. An over-inflated ego can compromise much of the effortless aspect and intensify the difficult aspects of being a couple.

What is more important, is to recognize that ego has no place in a genuinely loving relationship. It is a contradiction to choosing to be a member of ‘two,’ of ‘a team,’ and of ‘a union.’

Love is a valuable and cherished commodity.

It provides strength, comfort, and confidence and can be difficult to find.

It is foolhardy to squander it. Unfortunately, too many allow ego to mistakenly make them believe that being proud and wise is a form of love when it foolishly endangers love.

“Claiming to be wise, they became fools.” Romans 1:22

(Photos courtesy of Pexels)
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Let’s face it, it’s tough to beat the devotion of our ‘fur-legged’ friends. It’s part of the reason the world has a profound love affair with dogs.

Dogs simply know exactly how to love us!

I mean, it makes sense! They score extremely high in superior relationship qualities. Who wouldn’t crave the stellar traits of unconditional love, loyalty, affection and attentiveness, right?

It’s sort of makes it confusing that WE actually teach THEM how to do things. Maybe it should be the other way around. You know, the dogs barking (sorry had to do it) the relationship commands.

There are a lot of articles which have been written about these ‘pooch preferable’ qualities. The obvious reasons modeling our choice of significant other after our ‘perfect pup’ is completely logical.
But what about the not so apparent indicators that our spouse can’t possibly compete with our dog????

1. They only have eyes for you:

Well, and the occasional squirrel or deer, but for the most part, you are the most excited they get all day long. Who could ask for more? Certainly worth tolerating a little ‘wild animal ADD’ for this type of commitment, wouldn’t you say?

2. They will go pretty much wherever you want:

Shopping?? No problem! They’re up for it. Just don’t leave them too long, but that’s a super easy concession. Coffee? Again, they’re in!

The park, your friend’s house or the beach?? Get out! They won’t only beat you to the car, they will try and drive you there. Of course, later they will concede and ride shotgun instead. As long as they can navigate by hanging their head out of the window.

3. They love everything you make:

No more excess worry over meal prep, they can’t wait to eat your cooking! In fact, they will beg (sorry had to do it again) for seconds possibly thirds. They may even like your cooking so much they will sit next to you while you finish yours. Hoping for just a morsel of that fine homemade meal to fall to the ground.

4. They take up way less room on the bed:

Okay, so there may be a few Great Danes and Irish Wolfhounds that break this rule, but they’re worth it.

Other than that, your pooch will be thoughtfully conservative about how much actual mattress space they inhabit. At times, they will be so incredibly selfless, they will just curl up in a ball at the foot of the bed. Even better? sometimes they decide they don’t like the bed at all and they leave it all to you! They’re so generous!

Sure, they are not ‘purrfect!’ They aren’t cats! So they might get the bed a little dirty, snore or throw themselves on you to wake up in the morning, but it’s a small price to pay for extra sleeping space.

5. They’re super easy to read:

When they’re happy it’s a wag. When they’re excited it’s a bark. When they’ve had enough they retreat to their bed. All around, they make getting along pretty darn easy. Oh, and they’re quiet, thus making arguments fairly non-existent.

6. They like all your friends:

Actually, you could say they will love your friends so much, they may throw themselves at them!

It doesn’t matter if she’s the most obnoxious friend you have or if he is the loudest, they are all welcome in your home. And what a fuss will be made over them! They will surely believe they are your favorite people in the world.

They will be so loved, the attention might be labeled ‘shameless.’ In fact, it could lead your friends to mistakenly believe your pooch has a wandering eye, but don’t believe them!

7. You can train them:

As if all of the other things weren’t enough, they will let you train them. All for the mere currency of a treat. Such a pittance of a price to pay. What’s even more exciting? The sky is the limit! You can teach them anything you want! They are super eager to please!

So eager, you might bore a little too easily and neglect a few lessons that will ‘furstrate’ you later. But hey, it was your choice to decide they had graduated.

There you have it!

Absolute proof your spouse can’t possibly compete with your dog!

And if you still aren’t convinced, don’t forget there’s pretty much zero chance they will leave you. They are known for following the people they love anywhere.

(Photos courtesy of Pexels)
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