About 16 years ago, my wife and I inherited a Labrador Retriever named Star. Star actually belonged to a friend of my oldest son. The friend ran into some troubles, and we ended up inheriting Star. Star was just a pup. However, at a very young age she ended up running down the street and mating with another Lab. My wife was so frustrated. We had no business raising Labs.
Star gave birth to seven Labradors, all blonde. They could not have been cuter. Initially, we kept them in an empty child swimming pool in an extra bedroom. It was not long before they figured out how to get out of there. We had a swinging door. One of them learned if he would hold it open, all the other ones could escape into different parts of the house.
One morning I looked down the stairs, and there at the bottom of the stairs were seven Labrador pups, all realizing they were in the wrong. They quickly scurried back to the child swimming pool where they jumped back in, as if they had never been out.
It was then we knew it was time to place them.
The process was not as easy as I thought it would be. While my wife was initially disgusted that we had all these puppies, she became very protective of their placement. These were not going to be fire sales; they were going to be adoptions to a loving families.
Over the course of several weeks, she found homes for each of them. One went to a dentist, another to a schoolteacher, another to some friends, another to a farmer, and so on. In fact, the last one was given to a family that Barb ended up judging not adequate. We took the dog back and “Maggie” became part of our family.
Something interesting happened though. Certainly they were good placements, but most of the families each year communicated with us about how their dog was doing. One of them even sent Christmas cards with the dog on the cover each year. Others had pictures of their dogs at their desks and would call us over to see them. Sometimes they would bring their dog by to play with our dogs.
Two years ago, both Maggie and Star died. They were 12 and 14, respectively. Frankly, they had a great life (one friend told me that if reincarnation was true, he wanted to come back as one of my dogs). However, we continued to get cards from some of the other dog owners.
Recently, I learned the last of Star’s puppies passed away (at the age of 15).
While initially I was saddened, it really made me realize how much joy Star and her puppies had given to so many people for so many years.
I remember having a conversation with my grandmother. She was close to the end of her life (at age 96). She was really struggling as to why she was around.
Even today, even years after our grandmother’s been gone, my family still sits around and laughs at some of the things that she did, some of her wonderful sayings, remembering her warmth, remembering her kindness. Even her great-grandkids remember her and the impact that she had on them.
So many times when I am dealing with clients that are facing aging issues, they have the same thoughts as my grandmother: why am I here? Sometimes it is even more about what have I done and what impact have I had?
As with Star and her puppies, and as with my grandmother, their unintended impact was all the joy they brought on so many people and so many families for so many years. Do not diminish your impact. You have impacted so many people. Remember that.