by Mandy B. Anderson  |  Photography: Mosaic Photography

ajah3“Hi Bestie!!! Where’s Ajah?”

This is the question I get every time I see my adopted niece. She’s four and loves my dog almost as much as I do. It’s not hard to see why—Ajah has been popular among the kids for years. It’s probably because I’ve kept her as close to me as possible ever since the fire of 2010.

Dogs have always been a part of my life. As an only child, my dog was the only sibling I had. So it only made sense that my husband and I would become parents to a four-legged fur baby as soon as we bought our first house.

I’ll never forget the day I met her. She was only two weeks old, and she fit in the palm of my hand. The moment I held her and then handed her to my husband, I knew she was my dog. She cried in his hands and immediately stopped when he gave her back to me. We brought her home at seven weeks old and she’s been my baby ever since.

Ajah B. is a shih tzu. She’s a princess, that’s for sure. She loves people and detests other dogs. Her 13th birthday was last month and lately I’ve become very aware of how short her life will be compared to mine. You see, Ajah has some health problems and it’s only a matter of time before we have to make some hard decisions. My heart breaks just thinking about it, because it turns out that this fur baby of mine has completely stolen my heart and taught me some unexpected lessons through the years.

  1. You don’t have to speak the same language to communicate in meaningful ways. We have our own language, she and I. It wasn’t always this way; I guess it transpired over the course of the last six-and-a-half years of learning how to live the schedule of a rig-wife when my husband was working in the oilfield. Ajah has taught me that you don’t have to speak the same language to understand each other. In her eyes I can read happiness, frustration, irritation, and pain in ways nobody else can. She can read mine the same. It’s really quite fascinating to be able to understand an animal in such a way. Beautiful, really.
  2. Courage comes in all sizes. This prissy little 10-pound pup of mine is the most courageous dog I’ve ever met. She survived six hours in an apartment fire that destroyed everything and left over a hundred people homeless in one night. To this day I don’t know how she did it. I suspect she really was scared, but found a safe spot somehow. I also suspect that God was with her and heard my prayers for a miracle. She is a brave little dog. (And yes, I remind her of this often.)
  3. The compassion of a dog is a treasured gift and it’s my job to return the favor. In 2012 I was going through some pretty life-threatening health challenges. Ajah B. was my constant companion and showed her compassion for me by cuddling next to me, sometimes for hours on end, as I struggled to muster up the energy to let her outside. She was so patient with me; it’s like she knew how sick I was and that I was doing the best I could.

Well, now it’s my turn to be there for her. Lately I’m reminded that this precious little friend of mine is looking to me to ease her pain and love her through the tough days, while creating moments to cherish on the many good days that she still has left. So I will return the favor and show her compassion, even when it’s hard for me.

Soon, the day will come when I will find myself missing the loving language that Ajah and I share. Her courage will be but a memory, and I will long for the compassionate cuddles that have been a part of my life for so many years. However, we still have the gift of right now.

And I’ll forever have the gift of the unexpected lessons from my fur baby.   


Mandy B. Anderson

Mandy B. Anderson

Mandy B. Anderson is the CEO of Big Blue Couch® Coaching, LLC. Born with cystic fibrosis, Mandy has walked the road of an overcomer her entire life. She is passionate about helping others rise above their circumstances, be brave, and live beautifully whole.