“The purpose of life is a life of purpose.” – Robert Byrne

Dogs have taught me many enduring life lessons, and Buddy Rivers is no exception.

He came to us as the white-furred half of a perfect pair of German shepherd brothers. Buddy and Mikey Rivers grew from rambunctious pups to proud protectors of our property. They played with kids and grandkids. They joined Sherry and me on long hikes up the mountainside. Halfway through 2013, Mikey was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

A true companion, Buddy stayed at Mikey’s side throughout the prolonged illness, making sure his pal was safe and satisfied. When the day came to put Mikey down, Buddy joined us in burying him along their favorite mountain trail.

Recently, Buddy himself developed cancer, which led to him losing the use of one of his back legs. It was a rough year, and although Buddy endured, he seemed to have lost his spirit. He was depressed. His tail wouldn’t wag.

To the rescue came the Bakers, two eight-week-old pups who needed an adult sentinel, lots of love and a mentor to show them the ropes. Buddy had been given a new mission, and he immediately sprang into action. Prancing and playing on his three good legs, Buddy began teaching Amy Beth Baker and Benny Bean Baker how to bark with authority, fetch any ball tossed their way and refrain from relieving themselves in the house.

Watching the sparkle return to Buddy’s eyes made me reflect on my own life’s journey and how changes in health, career and family can cause priorities to shift. For me, what was once a purposeful reason to pop out of bed is now not as clear. Perhaps a little self-pity and doubt have entered my mind. Have I lost my path, my purpose?

Not if I look out the window and see Buddy, my faithful companion, bouncing along on three legs to catch up with the feisty Baker pups before they reach the frozen creek and the unfamiliar wildlife on the other side.

Today, I’ll be like Buddy and hop into another beautiful day.