This week was a sad one for me. My 13½-year-old black Labrador retriever Maggie, already blind and barely able to walk, could hardly breathe on Thursday night. The next morning I took her to her veterinarian, an almost mystical pet diagnostician named Dr. Andersen, and he discovered she had a large tumor in her chest that was pushing against her heart. It was time. My decision was difficult but right. (The right decision is usually the harder one, by the way.)

I named her Margaret Mary Byrne after the mystical nun who had visions of Jesus explaining the mysteries of his Sacred Heart. The name fit her well. She was a spiritual dog not just because she spent many hours watching me say my prayer and reciting the rosary with me on long walks, but she brought out the best in everyone she met. Those who claim that dogs don't have souls never met Maggie. In honor of my wonderful pooch, I offer you these 5 things I learned from my dog.

1. My Best Me - My Maggie saw me in my most personal moments like collapsing on the floor after a workout or griping to myself after a stressful encounter. She never shook her head in disgust. She just looked lovingly. She saw me for all my wonder not my blunder. God looks at us the same way. He sees beyond our unworthiness and rejoices in our potential.

2. Forgiveness - If I had to go out to dinner and leave her alone, she didn't slam doors when I arrived home. If my meetings went long and dinner was delayed, she wasn't passive aggressive. She was a bundle of tail wagging, welcome home, I love food, furry forgiveness. Grudges get us nowhere, certainly not heaven.

3. Balance - Maggie loved to eat. I love to eat. Maggie loved to take walks. I need to take more walks. She forced balance upon me. It's okay to enjoy a treat as long as you get a long walk and some time to sniff the air.

4. Never Complain - Toward the end of her life, Maggie was blind and her arthritis was bad. Life was not comfortable, but she never whined. To go outside, I would help her down the steps, she would sniff for the grass and plop down, all with a wag in her tail. She reminded me that life is not easy, but a waggy tail is better than a whine or a growl.

5. Total Dependence - I was Maggie's world. She didn't belong to a book club or worry about her Facebook page. Her concerns were the people she spent each day with, most especially me. I have to ask myself if I am as concerned with the happiness of my Master as Maggie was for me. I need to trust God as she trusted me. I must rejoice in the presence of the Lord as she enjoyed spending time with me. Maggie challenges me to love Jesus as much as she loved me.