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My Teacher, Keystone

These are our two dogs, Keystone on the left and Harlow on the right.


Though, today, I’m writing specifically about Keystone.

Photo by Leslie Taylor

Although the dog in the picture shown above  is not Keystone, it looks a lot like him and Keystone would totally hang with a cheetah if he got the chance. That’s just how he rolls.

I met Keystone when he was 2-years-old. Back then, he looked like this:


When I started dating Jonathan (the second time) I was in my mid-thirties. He had adopted Keystone 2 years prior and those two were bonded like superglue. Jonathan took Keystone everywhere with him and treated him like his kid. I loved Keystone from the moment I met him, however I didn’t yet grasp how incredible this dog really was. 10391601_1141447550415_2675957_n
When we got married a year later, Jonathan insisted that Keystone come with us on our honeymoon. I knew that those two came as a package deal, but seriously?

After a year of marriage, we moved to Colorado and began living in a very small RV. I was thankful to have a roof over our heads but it was small and narrow and super tight for two people, let alone a 100-pound dog. We managed living like that over the next year, Keystone sleeping in the tiny corner of our bedroom and the three of us watching movies together on our broken loveseat sized couch. Keystone didn’t mind, as long as we were together.

Keystone was my constant companion and didn’t want to be more than 3 feet away from me at any time. He didn’t ask for much, just some love and food and maybe a walk or two every day. Throw the ball for him a couple of times and his day was complete.

I remember back then, getting so frustrated when I would be trying to walk past him in our narrow hallway or when he would stand in the kitchen right in my path. I was inpatient with him when he wouldn’t get in the car fast enough for me. I would yell at him when he barked at other dogs or pulled on his leash.


We adopted Harlow as a puppy 2 years ago and Keystone has taught her how to be a dog. He is always patient with her all the while getting himself chewed on, jumped on, and bitten on a regular basis. Harlow loves to body slam him with a running start and he lets her, bracing himself the moment just before she makes contact. He always lets her go first, take his bone, steal his ball, bed, stick or whatever else he has that she wants (which is everything). Keystone goes with the flow.


He’s not a morning (or a night) dog but once he’s finally up in the morning, he wants to go outside. He likes to walk the property line smelling various things. It doesn’t matter what it is that he’s smelling, it’s like a brand new smell to him. He appears to be fascinated with some of these smells letting his nose take the lead. It would appear that every new day is like the first day of life for him.


Keystone doesn’t hold grudges. He’s not vindictive or prideful. He doesn’t make fun of other dogs or people. He doesn’t see disabilities, illnesses or anything with a monetary value. He only wants to be with you (and maybe have a taste of whatever food you happen to be eating).

As Keystone gets older, his muzzle gets whiter, just like my hair. The difference is, that Keystone isn’t looking at himself in the mirror worrying about his white hair, he’s looking at us. We are what matters to him.


I have learned so much from this dog. All along I thought I was training him, when in actuality, he’s been teaching me. He’s taught me to stop focusing on myself and my own needs and desires and instead concentrate my energy on others. Keystone has taught me that others are more important and that I should listen more than I speak, look more closely at others then I do at myself, and be open to accepting new people and ideas.

When we are having a bad day or receive bad news, Keystone is there with a huge goofy smile on his face. He knows how to make us forget about all the bad stuff. He reminds us to enjoy all of the good stuff.


Yesterday is a memory, but today is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity for us to laugh, run, read, write, listen, taste or whatever else brings us joy.

As I’m writing this, Keystone is now 8-years-old. He blew out his knee last year during a collision with Harlow and as a result, he walks with a limp and can’t run or play ball like he did just a year ago.  He never complains about it. There are days that it’s hard for him to get comfortable and just yesterday he fell going up the stairs into our RV.


We have a ramp for him now (thank you Uncle Vern), and he’s learning to use it, with hesitancy and also a desire to please us.

Now, it’s us who get to be patient with him. We are the ones who are letting him get away with things like not having to “sit” before he gets a treat. We walk a little slower with him now and give him extra high fives when he catches the ball before Harlow gets to it.  We give him extra treats for jumping into the car or making it up the ramp without any coaxing.

Who says you can’t teach an old dog (or human in my case) new tricks?

“And you walk with me, you never leave, you’re making my heart… a garden”—Matt Maher



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