For the Love of a Dog
Dog lovers have been paying tribute to their favorite companions lately on social media. While perusing the pictures of the tiniest Chihuahuas to the largest Great Danes, one theme has remained constant: the majority of us consider dogs as our friends and family members.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved animals, especially dogs. I can visualize every dog I’ve ever owned from the earliest days. Most of them were “mutts” as some might say, but to me, they were beautiful, loving, furry playmates. Our dogs ranged from Irish Setter to Husky mixes, depending upon which family acquaintance had free puppies at any given time. I wasn’t picky–I just wanted a dog I could take with me to explore the swinging grape vines in the woods, run alongside as I rode bicycles over hills, and sit quietly with me on the porch sharing secrets. Didn’t matter whether it was my Major, Pogo, Smokey and the Bandit, or Josephus, I cherished each slobbery, 4-legged tail-wagger just as much as the next.
Why do we love our dogs so much? Maybe because they seem to listen intently when we communicate with them late at night, sitting next to us on the couch, ears raised, head cocked to the side, tail wagging ever so slightly. They stare at us as if to commiserate with every complaint, and “smile” eagerly when we share our joy. Could our fondness be connected to how instinctively our canine guardian uses his big bad deep barking voice when he thinks an intruder lurks nearby? Yet, within just a flick of an ear he suddenly becomes a large cuddly pillow for our youngest child.
Apparently fondness for animals is genetic, because our three children have all shown an extreme desire to own every stray dog that comes near our home. We’ve been known to feed and cuddle a few who lost their way, have adopted one from the pound, kept an unusual tailless pup from our one and only litter, and have opened our home to our most recent furry family member, Bower the Border Collie. We’ve housed every breed from little brown coon hounds and spotted bird dogs to water loving Black Labs. We’ve loved each pooch tremendously and shed many tears when they left us too soon. No matter how sad we were when one was no longer with us, our hearts quickly made room for the next addition.
Probably one of my most memorable experiences of “adopting” a new fur baby was right after my husband and I married. As a teacher having no children of her own, I longed for companionship during my long summer days and security while I was home alone some nights. My adorable black and brown acquisition from Wal-Mart parking lot became known as “Trouble” since I neglected to share my puppy plans with my spouse. Furthermore, our supposedly male dog turned out to be a female (who was I to disagree with the nice man in the parking lot?), which was every bit as time-demanding as a newborn, with numerous potty breaks throughout the night, and teething pains like no other.
Sadly, after several years, Trouble passed away, but she left us with our longest surviving canine friend, Stubby (our 12 year old tailless English Shepherd mix). These days, he needs more attention, his eyes are cloudy, his black nose hairs have turned gray, he moves considerably slower, and his hearing isn’t as sharp as it used to be; I dread the time when he gets so frail we have to say our final goodbye.
Perhaps it will be consolation that Bower the Border Collie will only a be a few years old and he will sit calmly by our side, nudging us gently in the arm as if to say, “It’s okay, my humans…he’s gone to that special doggie place where there’s always a yummy bone to chew, a loud car to chase, a chubby face to lick, a cozy spot to nap, an open field to run, and memories of cherished days with people who loved him just like he was a member of the family.”
Anyone less fond of animals may think our canine devotion is ridiculous, but I believe those soulful puppy eyes and excitedly wagging tails communicate that our four-legged companions love us as much as their fur-clad hearts can comprehend. Who is always the first to greet us unconditionally when we come home and who always wants to be with us when we are in the worst mood? Who jumps almost to the ceiling when we’re ready to play, or lies down beside our bed at night when it’s time to rest? Yeah, there’s always room in our hearts for that kind of puppy love…
Now, don’t worry, we haven’t gone so far as to buy our pooches monogrammed clothing or have an interior decorator design their own paw-tastic bedroom, but considering that we have two college-age children and only one daughter who’ll be at home for the next few years, I can definitely foresee another trip to the Wal-Mart parking lot in the near future.
By Laura Reed, aka Dog Lover
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