My dog, Toby, died today, He was 15, and he’d had cancer for almost a year, but his death has gotten me thinking about my own life.

Am I living the best life possible?

Last year I had four dogs and they were my life. Every time I went out, I thought about getting back to them as soon as possible. For 15 years I never traveled. I put off going out because I preferred to stay at home with the ones who appreciated me and loved me unconditionally.

Was that the right decision?

I work in the health and human services field, which means the work I do saves lives. I know that. I can draw a direct line between what I have achieved and lives saved or lost.

But at the same time, my weekends and other free time have been spent in the pursuit of pleasure. Pleasure in the form of partying and watching TV and probably drinking a little too much.

So what is ‘the best life possible’?

I think it comes down to balance. No one person can be expected to devote their whole time to others. As long as you love others and give them some of your time, as long as your hedonistic life doesn’t devolve into selfishness, then you’re entitled to spend a little of your life on yourself.

Toby was the most spoilt dog in history, yet I still feel I didn’t spend enough time on him. I’m also a little jealous that he’s left this mortal coil and no longer has to feel the cold or hunger or boredom or the other things we humans struggle with. I suppose a little morbidity is expected when you lose a loved one.

I’m a writer, and I’m excited by my current series, but I also worry that my best times are behind me, and that no amount of success or pleasure will measure up to what I experienced during my youth. I worry that I’ve forgotten how to be happy.

Only time will tell if I get over this infatuation with the past. There is no other choice, really. I have to reinvent myself, and it has to be a me that balances personal satisfaction with altruism. I owe that to Toby, who saw the best in me, and showed me that you can both care for others and care for yourself. In fact, you can’t do one without the other.

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