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Area Voices: Life lessons from man's best friend

Lisa Sellman is shown with her dog, Jasmine. Sellman says her dog has taught her to place more value on family, home and being loved. (Submitted photo courtesy Lisa Sellman)

People and dogs have been living together for what experts have discovered to be 15,000 years now. Back then, food was precious, as was time, and so it begs the question: Why would our ancestors bring an animal into their dwelling?

I have a theory that the answer is the same reason I cared for birds with broken wings or stray cats as a child: Caring for all of nature is just a natural desire within us.

As a dog trainer, I work with many people and their dogs, and I am always amazed at how the perfect dog is matched up with the family that really needs it. I find myself saying at each session, "You are so lucky to have this dog. He is perfect for your family." Even if the family groans and does not see why their naughty and misbehaving dog is the right one, by the end of the session, they know.

In my own case, I have found that my dog Jasmine helps me to see what is important in life.

From a very early age, having a bank account and making money were priorities for me. It was probably a result of being raised in a household where money was always tight.

I never wanted to cause problems at home, so I never asked for anything if I could help it. I wanted to buy my own things, so I started babysitting at age 13 and corn detasseling and bean spraying that same summer. I even had a house painting business and painted my first house at 14.

I worked full-time in the summers and part-time during the school year at a grocery store. When I was 16, I went away for the summer and worked as a nanny in New York. Even when I was in New York, I had a bank account and would walk there to deposit my checks. It was a measure of how much I valued myself.

The problem was, I never had enough money. Whether I was making $3 an hour as a kid at the grocery store, $12 an hour as a college graduate at Children's Hospital or $35 an hour as a contract mortgage underwriter, it didn't matter -- there was always a feeling that I had to make more. That is, until Jasmine came into my life and I started to see what was really important.

Jasmine taught me that I am worth more than just my bank account, and that feeling joy in my heart is more important than any deposit I can make. Jasmine's priorities include a good night's sleep, good food, exercise and plenty of play time. She values her family, her home and being loved.

When I used to seek out my worth from a bank account balance, I always came up short. With a tail wag and a cuddle from my dog, I know I am worth more than words can express.

Lisa Sellman is a dog trainer and children's book author in Minneapolis. She blogs about her life, dogs and everything in between in her blog The Good Dog at