A few years ago, the movie The Bucket List starred Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as men who listed the things they wanted to do before they died. This got me to thinking: What about our dogs? If dogs had their way, what would they put on a bucket list? Dogs already live carefree and in the moment, so what exactly would go on that list?
Holding my little girl as she was euthanized by the veterinarian devastated me and later made doubly grateful for the bucket list I had created for her. If you love dogs, their limited lifespan is their only shortcoming.
Here are 20 things I’ve done with my dogs over the past 20 years. Each was an item from a “Cocker Bucket List” I created long ago. Why not allow your dog to channel his inner puppy and live his best life possible by creating a bucket list, too? Here are some ideas for inspiration:
20. Visit historic sites together
Four score and seven years ago took on new meaning when my dog, Brandy, and I stood where President Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address. Hiking Arlington National Cemetery with my dog, Dexter, provides an historic, reflective journey into our nation’s rich history, and we’ve done so twice.
19. Have a doggie birthday party for my dog and his friends
This is now a yearly occurrence, and since I keep in touch with my dog’s littermates and their parents, we do it up with balloons, cake, games, and laughs. If you have no idea when your dog’s birthday is, celebrate “gotcha” day instead, celebrate with one big “gotcha” party with your friends and their dogs.
18. Visit Dog Mountain in Vermont and sit in quiet solitude in Dog Chapel
Situated on 400 acres of land in St. Johnsbury, Dog Mountain is an escape, a dream, a playground, and one couple’s version of hope for all. Where all breeds and all creeds are welcomed but dogmas are not allowed, this is a must-see location.
17. Meet online dog friends in person and spend a weekend with them
I do this every year at BlogPaws pet blogger conferences, which are pet-friendly.
16. Host a dog wedding and raise money for dogs in need
On Friday evening, June 28, my dog, Dexter James Bryant, took the paw of his bride, Zoe Elizabeth Sorensen, and the two were united in holy “muttrimony,” all in the name of love and giving back. We called it the “Wigglebutt Wedding,” and we’re getting ready to do it all over again. Each year a different theme and a different rescue, but the same passion and love to fund-raise.
15. Have “French Friday” nights
Dexter and I take off on Friday nights and visit different pet-friendly stores, get takeout (fries for me), and spend quality time at the park.
14. Visit a nursing home or veterans/children’s hospital with my dog
I did this regularly with my last dog, and vow to do this more with Dexter.
13. Get Canine Good Citizen certification (or just have fun trying and bonding)
Having the Good Citizen title gave me the warm fuzzies and earned me a prize of my own: poochie smoochies. It was a great bonding experience and I trained Dexter on my own in the comfort of home.
12. Win the Mighty Dog Calendar Contest
My Brandy was selected as the national winner of the Mighty Dog calendar contest and graced their calendar cover in 2001. We won $2,500 and we donated a year’s supply of food to a local animal shelter. Forever mighty — that is how she will remain until we meet again.
11. Go to a zoo with my dog
Sounds weird, but we pulled it off. Prince is a rare white lion cub born at Nemacolin Woodlands Wildlife Habitats on July 6, 2010. Dexter is a gem of a Cocker Spaniel born in Pennsylvania on September 6, 2008. Here, their paths cross.
10 Visit the drive-in movies with my pooch
I don’t have to worry about a cell phone going off, someone’s head in the way, or stepping on a sticky mess in a movie theater. Wondering where the closest drive-in is in your area? Log on to The Drive-In Theater to find out.
9. Eat meals at a restaurant with my dog
For the most part, meals with my dog at a restaurant means on the patio, but we have a blast. I love how well-behaved and content he is (especially when a toddler nearby is having a temper tantrum, but I digress).
8. Travel cross country together
I traveled half the country with my last Cocker Spaniel and cross country twice with Dexter. Ever wish you could travel with your dog from sea to shining sea, taking in the sights, sounds, and pleasures of this great country of ours? Don’t wait.
7. Build a career or hobby around your love of dogs
I did both: Years ago I decided that life is too short to spend in a career that made me unhappy, so I switched from a path in medicine to a path in canine. Having a dog by my side as I work is the greatest fringe benefit ever.
6. Get pictures taken, frame them, and make real photo albums to touch and hold
I cannot even begin to express how elated I am to have photo albums from the years I shared with my dog, Brandy.
5. Give yourself peace of mind and enroll in a canine CPR/first aid class
A local pet supply store hosts a pet first aid class once or twice a year, so I enrolled and learned the basics and more. I hope I never need to use the Heimlich maneuver, but I feel good at least knowing I am able.
4. Unplug electronically daily and be with your dog
Stay off the mouse and engage the dog. Pull yourself away from the computer and play with your dog. Sounds simple but so many forget to do it. Your dog will thank you for it.
3. Get dog-themed permanent tattoos
I never thought of myself as a person who gets tattoos. So when I sat down in the artist’s chair in September 2008, I wondered whether I’d finally lost my last marbles. No, I reminded myself, this is in the name of dog and to gain a permanent piece of a life that is ever so fleeting.
2. Meet dog-loving celebrities
Dexter has opened more doors for me than I ever could have imagined. From meeting David Frei to sitting down and chatting on Oprah Radio with Gayle King, we share our message of responsible dog ownership.
1. Surround myself with dog parents who feel the same way
Gone are the days of not talking about how passionately I feel for dogs and their well-being. Any dog I ever share this life with will be a child to me. I practice this often and have no regrets.
So what’s on your doggie bucket list? Do you have one? There’s no time like the present. Let me know in the comments below if you plan to start one or already have.
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