8 Lessons My Dog Taught Me About Living

My beloved cocker spaniel almost died yesterday. On the way up to my apartment after his evening walk, his leg slipped into the gap between the elevator and the landing. The elevator door started to close, and he was about to have his leg ripped off. He lived, but I’ll never forget the lessons that dog taught me in those moments. 

A dire situation

His leg was wedged deep into the elevator shaft. I tried and tried but couldn’t get it out. It didn’t help that the elevator door kept shutting on me. Since I was using both hands to try to free the leg I had to use my back to push back on the closing door, which made for a rather bruised back.

Thankfully a kind passer-by stopped to help. He held the lift door open, relieving me of one problem so I could focus on the jammed leg. After a few minutes it still wouldn’t budge.

I thought, “This is it. I have to break the leg to get it out. We might as well call the vet right now and put the poor thing to sleep right here in the elevator shaft, much more merciful…” As I miserably planned his death, my dog happily wagged his tail at all the attention.

Then another woman came. She took over holding the door open, so the first passer-by could get down on his knees and help me. Finally he managed to free the leg, and the dog. When I got home I was trembling and just hugged my dog and cried at the thought of almost losing him. He soaked up the love, still merrily wagging his tail.

Lessons my dog taught me

  1. When bad things happen, keep wagging your tail.
  2. Be patient, and your problem will eventually be sorted.
  3. Trust in the kindness of strangers.
  4. When you’re stuck, accept help from others.
  5. Humans worry about things that never happen.
  6. Just because someone thinks about killing you doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you.
  7. Your partner makes mistakes, but she’s trying her best. 
  8. Lick the people you love today, before you fall into another hole.

“I think we are drawn to dogs because they are the uninhibited creatures we might be if we weren’t certain we knew better. They fight for honor at the first challenge, make love with no moral restraint, and they do not for all their marvelous instincts appear to know about death. Being such wonderfully uncomplicated beings, they need us to do their worrying.” – George Bird Evans, “Troubles with Bird Dogs”

If you enjoyed this post, you might want to read Lessons from Lucy: The Simple Joys of an Old, Happy Dog by Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist Dave Berry. 

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64 replies on “8 Lessons My Dog Taught Me About Living”

Wow, very inspiring post. My ultimate favorite:

Just because someone thinks about killing you doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you.

Hahahaha. Absolutely hilarious! Very helpful post too, and inspiring. I am so glad to hear that your dog got out. Reading your story, I was scared when you talked about breaking your dog’s leg. What a relief to hear that the help of strangers freed your dog. I wish people were more calm.

Josh Lipovetsky.

Thank You…so very much..
As my tears flow, I know, even more now, why the one thing I do have and hold on to are my pupdogs…
With so many other things in my life in what feels like unending chaos, the pups keep giving me somehow enough to keep going.
Again, Thank You…. for this post and many others I have been reading today…
Thanks also to Albert/UrbanMonk.. for pointing me in Your direction today.


Gosh I wish I could hug you somehow. Tears can be very healing if you allow them to do their work. Sounds like a really difficult period in your life and at least the pups can bring a smile or two each day, until things start getting better and you can smile on your own. Hang in there… and thank you for reaching out and letting me know you’re there and allowing my writing to help a little. I’m rooting for you.

I just stumbled this page, I read your story and it made me think about the other day, I was in a terrible mood, and had gone to the hairdressers, it turned out i would have to wait a couple of hours, which annoyed me more so I went to a nearby lake just to calm down. I sat at a picnic table and within a couple of minutes a golden lab had come and sat with me, it stayed with me for over an hour, and cheered me up a lot. It is amzing how animals can clarify things for us in a way that we can’t for ourselves.

Hi AJ,

Sorry your comment was in the spam queue for a while and I just found it. Thanks for your comment. It was indeed an intense moment for me, let alone for the dog! Though of course he didn’t realise it, lucky dog… 🙂

I almost didn’t read your post…I just can’t bear reading/seeing things about animals being hurt/killed. Glad I did. No dogs, but I’m a bonified cat lady and proud of it. My precious “soul cat” -I had to put to sleep 5yrs ago….I wasn’t going to get another. I lasted 3 wks and I was begging everyone to find another cat. I lucked out and got 2-they are sisters and that’s family for me. I’m sick right now with a horrible sinus infection that’s went on for a week…..my cats sit on the couch with me when I’m sick. No one else could do that and it make me feel better. Pets fulfill needs in a way human beings can’t I think. I don’t need to make conversation or be politically correct or polite…..it just is….they are my “people, my family” and I love ’em.
I’m so glad your dog is okay and things worked out in the best possible way 🙂

@ Blake,

I’m so sorry – I thought I’d replied to you soon after you posted your comment but I don’t see the reply here, and am not sure if you received it at all through email. My spam guard was gobbling up my own comments at one point and maybe that was one of those that got lost, or it got lost when my site crashed two days ago.

Anyway, my reply was to thank you for sharing about your dog and letting go of her. It’s so sad when dogs get cancer, because they cannot tell us about it, and we can only watch helplessly. My dog is completely blind and it’s so hard to take him outdoors because he’s so tentative about moving around. It’s painful to watch. Yet you’ve moved on so well with another little pooch and so maybe losing the first dog is a sorrow that passes quite quickly. I hope so anyway. Thanks so much for sharing – it prepares me for what will eventually happen with my dog too. I appreciate it.

@ Jacqueline,

I’m glad you read the post too! I’m starting to get used to cats and they are marvellous creatures. Unlike a dog who gazes at you adoringly, a cat will slyly glance out of the corner of her eye to see if she has your attention. Such characters they are! I’m like you where I don’t think I will want another dog but who knows. Pets can be so addictive in their own way. Or maybe our needs are addictive and pets fulfill them well, as you point out.

Sorry to hear you’ve been under the weather. Hope the doctor, the medicine, and your cat family combined will lead to a speedy recovery and get you back on your feet enjoying life.

How true are each of those things. Back in September I lost my first dog, she was around 13 and a half, amazing age. But it was hard to let go. We had found out a couple weeks earlier that she had cancer. Now, I had always lived my life in the philosophy of “You only life once” and when me and my mother went in to put her down because it was the most human thing, it broke my heart. That day I thought; “I don’t want another dog. She just meant too much to me.” Then I kept on seeing dogs and I thought of it as a sign from her saying “It’s okay, go ahead.” And from that I found a wonder year and a half male who has been my constant shadow and best friend. The point to this story is, you’re heart should always be open even when it’s been hurt because if it isn’t, then, your missing out on some wonderful things or even people. I say people because, to me, dogs are just people with LOTS of fur and happily swinging tail.

I love this story. Dogs have such a sweet, trusting nature. If you follow their example, you’re bound to be a better person. Thanks for sharing!

Hello E Cigarette, thank you for visiting and leaving a comment. Yes, dogs are sweet and trusting. I have no doubt that if I were even half the person my dog is, I would be twice the person I am!

I guess it was meant to be serious but I thought it was really quite funny 🙂

I don’t have pets anymore – ever since I’ve killed a prawn, a few fishes and baby tortoises when I was a kid. I was convinced that I am no good with such things. I didn’t want kids for that reason too.

But it is true that sometimes I do tend to worry too much – ahead of time and myself. When the beauty of life is the fact that it always have room for the unexpected. Which is why they say we should cross the bridge when we come to it. More important probably is to have presence of mind.

And some posture expert did say that when you’re stuck sometimes it doesn’t help to pull or push blindly – you need to relax, study the position and often unravelling is much easier than it looked.

Finally, you know that you could count on help from the others. They need the lift to be cleared of your dog if they were to be able to use it themselves.

East meets West, gosh you made me laugh with your comments about killing off all your pets. Many fish have died at my hands too, though the hamsters, terrapins, guinea pigs, rabbits and the rest died of age so I don’t take responsibility for those! I’m glad you decided to go ahead and have kids though!

Your last comment is very pragmatic. Yes at some point help would have come. I’m just glad it came soon, and while my dog was still alive! Now when I look back at the whole incident it is rather funny, I must admit.

Indeed wise lessons. I think we can learn a lesson from all the everyday little things that happen. The secret is to see them and read them right. Thanks for visiting my site. I sure will be back to visit yours.

Oh Daphne, that must have been so scary. And you are so funny!

Waiting and trusting that help will come is a really good one – I remember when I was traveling with a girlfriend years ago and our car go into bother a few times, we just waited until someone came to help.

Cheers – Robin

@Robin, thanks for your kind words. It’s certainly funnier in hindsight than it was at the moment. Trusting comes so easily to dogs and so hard to us… strange. Thanks for commenting, Robin!

Hi Joanne,

I’m glad you love the post! Eckhart Tolle is an amazing author – I wasn’t aware (or forgot) that he talked about pets. Thanks for the tip!

Your cat is probably a cousin of my dog – despite being 14 he acts like he is still a puppy! Yep, we grown-ups should remember to be child-like in the same way – excitement at being alive and living each day as an adventure. Thanks for your wonderful comment, Joanne.

Thank you Daphne… I love this post! It reminds me of something Eckhart Tolle said about experiencing nature – including (and especially) with our pets – and the amazing lessons we can learn from them.
I live with a geriatric cat that, even with arthritis, sometimes doesn’t know he’s not a kitten. I can’t help but to admire the direct connection to Source that animals exhibit. It helps me to know that it’s possible for us, too.
Namaste 🙂

Hi Henie,

You are so sweet. I’m so grateful that you were able to feel right there with us. My dog was probably laughing right along with you while I was panicking! Thank you for your lovely comment making me feel more wonderful than I really am. 🙂

@ Brenda,

Welcome, and thank you for your lovely comment! You have the gift of empathy if you could almost feel that you were there with us. I am grateful for your understanding and compassion, because I felt so silly after the event for thinking the worst when everything was ok. Not even a scratch on his leg that I could find.

I like the lesson that you found – to welcome every situation as an adventure, with tail wagging! I had to smile at your remark that dogs don’t have to remind themselves to do this. I suspect they would even consider blogging about past experiences a waste of precious time and rather go out looking for more trouble (aka adventure!). I really enjoyed and appreciated your comment. Thank you, Brenda.

@ Broderick,

I’m glad you thought my outlook positive. I suppose I’m trying to make up for it being so negative when the actual event was playing out. Worrying about things that never happen is certainly one of my fortes, though I’m learning to do much less of it. Thanks for commenting!

@ Sara,

I am very touched that you felt so moved by the story. I know how you feel about your dog. Mine is 14 years old, blind and deaf. Yes, watching them find their way about, walking into walls or furniture, falling into small drains when they’re out walking. All this is heart wrenching. Yet the simple acceptance and happiness they display is so heart warming. I only hope that when I’m old and handicapped, I will behave with as much grace. I am so grateful that you know how it feels, and your comment really warmed my heart. Thank you, Sara.

@ Paul,

Your comments always bring a sombre breath of another reality into my otherwise blessed life. I cannot even start to imagine what you are going through. It must be hard to even type, and so I am extremely honoured that you make the effort to comment here.

I too have read of marriages disintegrating when one partner or a child has an incurable disease. The stresses on the relationship must be phenomenal, and while the healthy partner has the option to walk away and usually does, you who have the disease have no such option and are left to deal with an unbelievably tough life on your own.

This is totally unscientific, and probably comes from my religious upbringing, but I think I look at it this way: some people are special and have evolved so much in terms of maturity that there’s nothing more an ordinary life can teach them, and so they are given an extraordinary life that challenges them, with lessons that only they are prepared to deal with, that the rest of us just aren’t ready for.

All I can say is that I am learning so much from your blog and your comments, Paul. Of all the readers here, you speak from a place of incredible pain and therefore I value every word from you. I’m also in awe that you are able to maintain your sense of humour, with your remark about the flu. You are amazing, Paul. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.

Oh Daphne!

You had me crying and laughing at the same time!

You words transported me right next to you and your dog – I was crying for you and laughing for your dog!

Such a wonderful story teller you are and I am so grateful to have come across your wonderful path!

You are amazing!

Most of these ring true for me too – and I would have agreed with them all when I was healthy. But it’s amazing some of the things you learn when things turn bad and stay bad with a degenerative, incurable disease.

You learn that sometimes all the patience, positive energy and hard work in the world sometimes isn’t enough. And that you can rely on people a lot less than you thought you could.

In some ways it’s like the world gets turned upside down. Much of it is also understandable. Few marriages, for example, survive one partner developing a permanent incapacitating condition in young adult life. Becoming more of a nurse than a spouse isn’t what any of us have in mind. When we hear “in sickness and in health” we’re thinking, like maybe the flu, lol – or at least something that has an end to it.


This post brought tears to my eyes. I am so glad both of you are okay. I loved how you turned it around and spoke of what dogs teach us. I have a very old dog who is now totally blind and she is AMAZING. Even when she gets a bit lost, she just keeps trying until she finds her way…she never gives up. Every day, she reminds me to go with the flow and be more patient with myself.

Hey Daphne! What a positive outlook on that whole situation, and I’m glad to hear everything turned out alright. I definitely believe we can learn something from anything.

“Humans worry about things that never happen.”

I had to pull that out. So true. Thank you for sharing this!

@ Michelle, welcome and thanks for sharing about Zola! I know what you mean about our pets making us smile and feel heartbroken at the same time. Sometimes I think they are much braver than us. Definitely much better at getting on with life and living in the moment! I appreciate your visit, Michelle.

@ Alik, we’re in the same boat. My dog is 14 years old and I’ve been prepared for years that he can go anytime. I just wasn’t prepared for him to die in an elevator shaft. You’re right that every moment is to be cherished. I feel that way about my Dad all the time, and he died more than a year ago already.

@ Stacey, thanks for sympathising. Looking back it was rather silly to panic and think the worst, yet that was my immediate reaction. I’m going to make your comment my new guideline for living: eat, sleep, play, snuggle, poop! Life really is that simple if we want it to be. Thanks for making me smile!

What a beautiful story and wonderful writing! I felt like I was right there with you the whole time during the incident!
The lesson, so to speak, that came up for me is to remember to trust and have faith. For example, throughout life it is quite easy to become guarded and wary of others. We have to remind ourselves (whereas dogs don’t) that every situation is new and an adventure! We have to remember to trust in the divine timing and sequencing of events of the universe and welcome even the hard times with as much open arms (wagging tails) as we can! If we don’t, then we’ll miss the fun and the rewards.

@ Diggy, welcome and I’m so glad you like it here! I’m a fan of Eckhart Tolle’s writing as well. Sorry you had difficulty subscribing. I’ve sent you an email with a couple of links to try. Hope those work. Love your blog tagline by the way!

@ Celes, aw… thanks for the sweet sentiments. I’m intrigued that worry stops oxygen flow to the brain. I suppose it’s true that when I’m anxious I forget to breath or take shallow breaths so there might be something to this. Fascinating. Thanks for that little tidbit. I appreciate your comments!

I’m happy to hear your dog is ok. I would have panicked in the same way! We always think the worst, don’t we,and the worst almost never happens, at least in my experience. I love the lessons you shared from your dog…I learn so much from my cats. Mainly that life is good right now – they eat, sleep, play, snuggle, and poop. What else is there really?

That resonates w/me a lot. I have a dog too and it is old dog. Lately he had serious health issues and was awake few nights in a row… i realized that i was putting aside many “important” things like work and leisure. Just to help my old friend. I thought i am losing him..
My lesson? Cherish and enjoy what’s most important NOW. When it ends, it just ends. No way to turn the time the other way…

@ Vered, glad to know this helps. I was very moved by the thoughts in your last post about worry, which is so natural to all of us, and you captured so many nuances of the feeling. I think I have the opposite problem – I worry too little!

@ Davina, it was pretty horrifying after the first few attempts when I realised that the leg wasn’t going to come one. Thanks for your understanding and compassion. The dog is lying at my feet now, very well indeed!

@ Arswino, you’re so right about dogs not holding a grudge. I also think they hardly get offended in the first place. Ah, to be as carefree as a dog… Thanks for sharing this point. It’s very true.

@ Tamsin, I’m kind of glad I’m not heading off anywhere soon either. One day, but not yet. I would miss all the wonderful people here, and you’re definitely one of these!

Hi Daphne, I’m glad to know that your dog escaped from the ordeal fine! He’s really lucky to have you as his loving owner by the way. And I’m both impressed and very proud of you that you are able to stop, introspect and get life lessons out of the experience 😀 I especially agree on ‘Humans worry about things that never happen’. I once listened to a podcast before that says worrying blocks the oxygen flow to our brain, and it causes us to think less effectively. So in order to solve the problem we are facing in the best manner, we should actually not worry at all.


Found your blog through glens Pluginid:)

Awesome post, I agree how true it is how much we worry about things that may or may not happen. We need to learn to live in the present, Like Eckhart Tolle teaches in The Power of Now:)

I like your blog, I subscribed and looking forward to new posts:)

All the best

Glad to hear you’re not off on your travels soon Daphne as I would very much miss my fix of Joyful Days – as I’m sure your other readers would too! All in good time and I look forward to hearing more about your thoughts during the year!


Hi Daphne, I had a dog a long time ago. I was sick at heart when it passed away. Dog is always my favorite animal.
You have mentioned about what we can learn from a dog. I learned one more from dog. A dog will never have a grudge even we often do bad things to it such as snap at it, kick it. In human, sometimes we want to revenge if someone do a bad thing to us.
Thanks for sharing, Daphne.

@ Giovanna, nice to know another dog-lover! How many dogs do you have? Sounds like you have more than one. And yes, sometimes it makes more sense to imitate our dogs than other people!

@ Chris, I smiled when I read your comment because it is so true. The moment his leg came free, the dog was back to normal. It was I who continued to fret and berate myself and all that. For sure he wouldn’t have written an entire post on the incident! Good point to learn from dogs how to let go and live in the moment.

@ Diane, I am delighted that you chimed in! Especially to make such a good point. You’re right that it’s such a fine line. If we forgot everything then we would have no chance to learn and improve, even no identity. I guess the trick is to remember only when it serves us, and otherwise to let go. I am so glad you are sharing your wisdom here, Diane.

I’m a huge dog-lover. I would have been horrified by this. When I was a young girl, my dog went missing and I was inconsolable. I can still remember the sense of panic I felt. I’m glad your little one was ok.


I’m glad you like the “Lick the ones you love” bit. I thought it was corny but certainly very doggy-type thinking, and something I need to do this more. Turning it into a book or blog… that’s a challenging idea. Thanks for making me think about it!

@ Tamsin, I knew you would give a little nudge! 😉 Thanks for those questions. I’ve promised myself to think seriously about it this year. No hurry to get it done, but certainly worth some though. If a post is born from this I’ll be sure to let you know!

@ Lee Ann, welcome to Joyful Days! I am touched that the story took you to both extremes of tears and laughter. Yes we have much to learn from our animal friends. I am grateful that you visited and commented today, Lee Ann. Thank you!

@ Middle Way, my heart probably stopped too but I was too panicked to notice! Dogs are cool and I’ve heard cats are even cooler! Thanks for your concern and sweet comment.

Hi All,
We have emotional memory banks to draw from in wisdom and also to help relate to others in our life through connectivity. It can be a blessing and a problem at times in our lives. Too much rehashing can be a problem but learning from the lesson recieved you gain higher wisdom too. Oh the fine lines in our human lives.

Hope you don’t mind me chiming in, Daphne!

Thanks for this post. One thing I noticed about the story was that the dog didn’t seem to spend a lot of time and energy replaying the traumatic event in its mind after its leg was freed — it just went on enjoying life. Most humans would be telling each other, “oh, God, I can’t believe what happened, it was so horrible! I’ll never forget it!” and endlessly rehashing the incident both inside themselves and with others. In short, dogs can let go of the past.

Hi Daphne

I am so glad to hear that your dog is fine. Being a dog lover myself, I can understand your concern…
I am so happy for you on the happy ended.

I guess what I learn from one of my dog is that just because others are picnicing doesn’t mean I have to 🙂

Thanks for sharing.
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action

@ Nudgeme, I’m glad your broadband is up and running! Yes it’s a lovely treat to see you here. Thanks for your concern about my dog – he’s probably the least affected by all the hooha. And you’re right, we tend to think too much about things and that paralyses us. I’m thinking of taking a year off to travel the world but again, so many things holding me back, ironically one of them being who’s going to take care of my dog? 🙂

@ Glen, no offence taken and I’m glad you ended up liking the post. Like you, I’ve stayed away from the “10 Ways…” “7 Great Tips…” gimmicky type of title but this time got inspired by another blog that I liked very much! Thanks for dropping by.

@ Evelyn, so sorry your comment just appeared. It went into spam! You’re right that dogs are a lot of work. Hamsters are a lot easier to care for. I’ve had 3 hamsters, all named Fluffy – they were smelly unaffectionate things but I adored them, especially watching them run on the wheel. So I feel for your daughter 🙂

@ Juliet, thanks for understanding. I’m glad everything worked out OK too! I’ve had half a dozen fish die on me and never felt close to this upset. I’m going to hunt for your dog post right now!

@ Ian, welcome! Ah, those elevators… I’ve learnt to be a lot more careful now. I’m happy you found my blog too 🙂 I’ve just visited your blog and love your last post. You have a new subscriber!

@ Liara, circumstances are good teachers indeed! Come to think of it, dogs are good teachers… Thanks for your wise comment, as always.

@ Sara, dog is rubbed! You have a warm heart indeed, to feel that way about the wagging tail. I am touched, and very honoured by your visit here today. I’m a fan of your blog! (I thought you were referring to a song, then googled and realised it’s a book. Will put it on my reading list.)

@ Diane, I love those lessons as well. The wagging tail was the first thought that occurred to me. It comes so naturally to dogs and so hard to people… Thank you for your affirming comment. I love having you here!

Thanks Daphne – yes, good to be back on line! Would love to hear more about you possibly travelling the world for a year! I wonder if you knew that your dog was being well looked after while you were away by someone you trust, how might that help your thinking about your trip ..? And likewise, when you say ‘so many things holding me back’, can you see ways to get round those too? Just a bit of a nudge..!?

I can feel the makings of another post …!

All the best for now


@ Maya, thanks for the heads up. I went over to watch the video and loved it! Yes we have a lot to learn from these wonderful creatures.

@ Jay, ha ha, good one about treats. Dogs also teach us hope – they hang around under the dining table ever hopeful for a few dropped crumbs or better!

@ Lance, thanks for the kind words. As for the licking… the only way to find out is to try it! 😉

No offence but at first I thought this was going to be some gimmiky title. How wrong I was. Great story and some excellent points to go with it.

Thanks for sharing Daphne, I’m glad your dog is OK 🙂


Hi Daphne

Just logged on here in the UK to your post – gosh what a shock that must have given you, but also what a great post which resulted from the experience. It’s good to know that your dog is safe and sound!

Thanks for sharing the lessons from your dog – esp the point that we humans can often worry about things that never happen, which in turn can hold us back from doing things we might really want to, or simply lead to ‘analysis paralysis’. The perceived fear, or ‘worry’, associated with doing something is so often far worse than the reality – so your dog definitely has a thing or two to teach us all on that one!

All the best



Lovely story – having 2 dogs myself and a temperamental elevator I SO relate to your dilemma! And great conclusions.

Happy to find your blog!

Hi Daphne

I am a big dog-lover and I can feel your distress. I’m just so glad that everything worked out OK.

I love your life lessons. So true!

I wrote a post quite some time ago on what dogs teach us, but it was from a bit of a different angle. Let me give my list:
Life is fun!
Sense of family


When bad things happen, keep wagging your tail.
Be patient and still, and your problem will eventually be sorted.
Trust in the kindness of strangers.

Those are so very important in life!

Amazing! I can only imagine how heart-wrenching the whole experience must have been for you. I just about melted when you described your dog wagging his tail as everyone worried. Please give your dog an extra rub on my behalf.

And this? “Just because someone thinks about killing you doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you.” Straight out of Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. 🙂

Daphne, you offer additional reasons why human beings often view the canine as “man’s best friend.” Silence is a teacher just like circumstances are teachers. Each person finds wisdom when he chooses to be receptive to it.

Hi Daphne,
So glad to hear everything is okay with your dog. And, I love the lessons you’ve shared – we can all learn from those (well…I’m wondering how well the licking will go over!!).

Your dog did well Daphne. I hope you’re doing as well as he is…I can tell you love him very much.

What a horrible and wonderful story! I love that our animals teach us so much about our lives! Another things they teach us is the past matters not, the treat is on our nose now. 🙂
Thanks Daphne!

what a lovely post! I love my dogs and can totally relate …

BTW, I have a post called “Dog Lessons for life” on my blog as well. There is a lot to be learnt from these creatures 🙂

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