Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Miracle of Dogs

We were told it would take two years to get a release dog from the Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ.  But  six weeks after submitting the paperwork we got a call.  They had noticed on our application that we would be willing to take a dog with a handicap.  Would we be interested in a dog with a torn up knee?  The answer was yes, and thus began our 20 year journey with family dogs.

Since Boo came into our lives, we have been transformed.  We unwittingly carry dog hair everywhere we go.  We're apt to talk to complete strangers if they have an adorable dog.  We miss these creatures when we're away from home; I feel an emotional hole when I'm not greeted by a wet nose when I walk through the door. Our children will avoid texts asking personal questions but will unfailingly respond quickly to texts that include dog videos or pictures.

I was thinking about pet ownership as I cleaned up an overnight accident the other day.  I wasn't really upset.  The offending dog -- neither dog would acknowledge the vomit -- had thoughtfully avoided my husband's gym shoes.   Impressive.  Yes, the clean up was stinky.  Yes, it was taking minutes out of my morning routine that I didn't really have.  But it made me marvel, for what must be the umpteenth time, that dog ownership has taught me patience, joy, exuberance, pleasure in the little things, and love.

It was fate then, I think, that later that day I was reading Ann Patchett's book, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage.  The book is a collection of essays from different points in Patchett's career.  Here is an excerpt from "This Dog's Life" that was originally published in Vogue, March 1997.  It said everything I was feeling.

I watch the other dog owners in the park, married people and single people and people with children. The relationship each one has with his or her dog is very personal and distinct.  But what I see again and again is that people are proud of their pets, proud of the way that they run, proud of how they nose around with the other dogs,  proud that they are brave enough to go into the water or smart enough to stay out of it.  People seem able to love their dogs with an unabashed acceptance that they rarely demonstrate with family or friends.  The dogs do not disappoint them, or if they do, the owners manage to forget about it quickly.  I want to learn to love people like this, the way I love my dog, with pride and enthusiasm and a complete amnesia for faults.  In short, to love others the way my dogs loves me.   
What is it about dog ownership  -- or pet ownership in general --  that's so magical?  I can only say that I think it's a gift from God because I know all my dogs have been angels on Earth.  I've been blessed by the lessons these creatures have taught me.  Hopefully I learn their lessons well.

Boo and her beloved Frisbee
Goblin, my gentle giant, amid the flowers
Bella, sitting in her very funny and unique way
Handsome Harvey, one of the goofiest German Shepherds around

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