You can’t go to a conference of any kind today without at least one Life Coach being on the Speaker’s Roster. It seems to be a hot new career requiring little if any education….just some experience at living. These people are supposedly experts at telling other people what to do with their lives. I have news for all the people aspiring to snag one of these cushy positions…dogs have been doing it for ages. When I came to a crossroads in my life, confronted with a myriad of questions, I did the next best thing…I got my dog Sadie and I readily admit…she has been my life coach.

All people who have dogs know that they change our lives. They make us happier, lower our blood pressure, make us appreciate our lives more and give us a sense of purpose. A recent study revealed that dogs even make us feel younger. More and more though, our dogs are doing more than change our lives emotionally…the often really change our lives by challenging us to follow our passion. During my travels this year, I met numerous people whose dogs played major roles in their life decisions. According to what I’ve discovered…dogs have become the ultimate life coach.

Geri Sim was a doctor working in a busy Manhattan practice, but her work was consuming her and made her feel she was missing out on friends…on pets…on…life. After gaining 40 pounds with consolation eating, she consulted a human life coach who recommended she get a dog. This dog inspired her to pursue her dream as a pastry chef. But Geri took a different take on baking and became a baker for dogs. Her sheltie Katie soon became her biggest fan and Geri started her company The Honeybark Bakery where she makes gourmet treats for dogs. Now Geri is passionate about her work and enjoys baking treats for dog charity events, meets interesting people, and still keeps Katie in delicious treats. Geri is excited about her life and her dog and doesn’t feel like she’s missing out on anything anymore.

Joy Miller has almost as many dogs as she has careers and degrees. Joy is an internationally known psychologist, author, motivational speaker, and leading expert on relationships. But it is with her dogs that life slows down and is enjoyable. Joy and her husband went through separation anxiety every time they traveled to Florida and had to leave their five yellow labs behind. So the Millers adopted a smaller “to go dog” that they take with them when they travel. Much more than a travel companion, Dudley shows Joy how to take the advice she gets paid handsomely to give out…live in the moment…enjoy each day. Joy simply finds life better with Dudley along.

Pittsburgh’s Bob Fragasso, of the successful financial planners Fragasso Group, says that the gratitude dogs express when they are rescued, teach their human counterparts the same. Bob has three rescued dogs, Tucker, Timbre and Polka, all saved from very dire circumstances. All three dogs are thriving and taught Bob that there’s life outside the office. Now they’re part of Bob’s active lifestyle and supply him with friendship, companionship and loyalty. They’re the missing dimension to a life once filled with only business and becoming successful.

Despite the overwhelming statistics and the big business of dogs, they often don’t get the credit they deserve for changing lives….not just adding to our happiness. Instead of booking appointments with your shrink, you might think of going to the shelter! I know for sure that I simply couldn’t afford the hourly rate of any therapist for the hours of unconditional acceptance and motivation I get from my dog Sadie. Thanks to her I fulfilled a lifelong dream of writing a book and now we’re finishing our second one. Yet none of that can compare to the joy I experience with her every day. It’s not a stretch to say that she’s been the best investment of my life. Now if she just continues to draw the crowds to her book signings….hmmmm. “How a $40 Dollar Dog Made Me a Millionaire” sounds like a pretty good third book title to us.

Patti Lawson is an attorney and Mom to Sadie…the dog she discovered when she needed her most. Their story is told in The Dog Diet, A Memoir, What My Dog Taught Me About Shedding Pounds, Licking Stress, and Getting A New Leash On Life.
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