Ten Things Tommy Taught Me

Tommy was my best friend for 12 years. Like all border collies he was brilliant, intense, and possessed other traits usually found only in really really good humans.   A recent piece of ceramic art I discovered in a local restaurant a few weeks ago reminded me of Tommy.  It took me back to the years of my life that Tommy enriched before his passing in December 2009.

By artist Moye Thompson, more at moyeceramics.com
Tommy, age 5

Though he’s been gone a little while and we have had five other dogs – two his contemporaries and three that have followed him – I’ll never forget Tommy (the professor) who taught me numerous important life lessons, including:

10.  Get a job. If someone doesn’t give you one, look around and find something that needs doing and get to it.  The house isn’t going to guard itself.   That new puppy needs a mentor.  That child needs to be herded.

Beggs, age 12 weeks

9.  Take the heat.  Beggs the beagle weighed 3 1/2 pounds when we brought her home.  Tommy was ten times bigger, but she was tough on him (and our furniture, but that’s another story).  Brutal.  She harassed him, nipped him, pulled his fur, stole and destroyed his toys, and all manner of other mischief.

Tommy8 - Early 2003
Tommy with Beggs

8. But play fair.  No matter what she did to him, Tommy always treated Beggs gently and never lost his temper with her.  He understood the context of her actions — she was a baby.  (And a brat, but her discipline was our job, not his).

Tommy and Polly, our other border collie

7. Play.  Tommy was always up for a game or any amusement.  Some of my most beautiful memories are of his happy dances on the beach or on the shores of Lake Arrowhead or Lake Tahoe.Tommy Remembered 2

6. Protect your people.  As gentle as he was with his own people or his sisters, Tommy had zero tolerance for threats, meanness, or bullies.  Ask anyone who ever raised his voice to me, approached me too quickly, or trespassed on our property.

5. See challenges as opportunities.  Age eventually caught up with Tommy; late in life he lost most of his teeth and all of his hearing.  This didn’t stop him from enjoying his favorite food (tuna!) or being as responsive as ever (he taught himself hand signals and lip reading.)

4. Never stop learning. Never forget what you have learned. Tommy never did; his manners were impeccable even in the face of age and infirmity. His vocabulary never stopped growing.

3. Live with purpose, integrity, and dignity.  He never stopped working, he never let me down, and he maintained his composure and dignity until the last moments of his life.

2. Be loyal.  No one is more important than your pack team.  Make sure they know that.

1. Keep your promises and commitments.  Do what you say you will.  No flinching.  No excuses.  Just results.


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