Let’s face it: dogs are cool. Not that the cat world doesn’t have its heroes, but I can’t recall ever reading about how a cat alerted the household of a fire, warned off an intruder, chased down a tennis ball, or subdued a fleeing criminal. Unquestioning devotion, love, loyalty, empathy and companionship are hallmarks of a best friend who asks nothing more than love and a little kibble. Dogs clearly walk away with the Best Pet award.

So how do we stack up? God gave us these qualities – and more – but are we using them the best we can, and as often as we should? At 63, I have just enough life experience to look back through childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, and growing a family to see where I did OK, and where I fell below the mark. I chuckle to myself over memories of a granddad who, though I didn’t have long, left an indelible mark of what I can be proud of as a person. I still talk to him.

The other side of the coin, though, is far from polished. I have a long list of examples where I didn’t treat others with the kindness, respect, love and honesty that they deserved. I’ve been quick to judge, to separate out those who didn’t “deserve” my attention and time, and fell into the trap of self-survival at the expense of relationships that could have added richness to my life. Cringe-worthy moments that I can’t – and shouldn’t – let go.

But God gave us a memory and a conscience to compile the past and use the good and the bad to impact those who may benefit from what we’ve learned. I think of my kids and grandkids, knowing that it’s this time – now and over the next many years – that I have to help shape them into kind, compassionate, empathetic and humble beings. I’ve been searching to figure out what to do with the time that I have left, and now I know. My advice? Make a list, accept the past, share yourself and nurture the future with the youngsters – and enjoy the results.