Zipcode had a very thought-provoking post last Friday about dog owners and their responsibility for how their dogs turn out. It got me to thinking about how we relate to pets in general and dogs in particular.
To the extent that I'm a pet person of any sort, I'm a dog guy. With a dog, what you see is what you get. You know when they're happy and when they're sad. You know what they like and don't like. A dog's affection for you is about as close to unconditional love as you'll find in this life...and no less an authority than former president Harry Truman once famously said, "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog."
Cats, on the other hand, are in it for themselves. When you come home, a dog will run to greet you joyfully and make you feel like a million dollars. A cat will peer around a corner, note that you're home, sigh at the invasion of its space, and go back to hacking up hairballs on your pillow. If you're a cat lover, I'm sorry. I'll take a dog any day.
Our first dog was Wooly, a mixed-breed (Yorkshire and Scots) terrier who was the world's best family dog. She was loving and cheerful, and much smarter than any Republican or Democrat. Our daughter taught her all the standard tricks (sit, lie down, roll over, play dead, etc), but Wooly figured out early on that it was too difficult to remember all those dumb commands...if you told her to do something, she'd just go ahead and do all the tricks she knew, one after the other, figuring that one of them was the one you wanted. She also played Hide and Seek...we'd hide, she'd find us, we'd hide again, and she'd carefully examine all the places we'd hidden before - in order - before wasting her time looking in new places. Wooly lived to be nearly 16, and when she was so old and sick that she was miserable all the time, we sat in a circle in the kitchen and sent her on her way with a lot of tears and good memories.
Our next dog was Sidney, a purebred Siberian Husky, a beautiful dog with a brown-and-white coat, blue eyes, and the personality from Hell. When our daughter put her out of her room one night because she was making too much noise, Sidney tried to dig her way back in under the door...ripping up the downstairs hallway carpet beyond salvation. He also dug holes in the living room (both the carpets and a queen-sized sleeper sofa) and tore up the carpet on the first step from the foyer up to the main level of the house (to provide a nice view for arriving visitors). The year of our miserable back-to-back snowstorms here in DC (I think it was 1996), the only happy creature in the area was Sidney, who dragged my wide white fanny seven hundred miles through deep drifts on endless walks. Sidney eventually had to go, as my legs were only seven inches long from all the walking, and we couldn't afford the exorcism to get his unlimited energy under control.
Then came Pip (aka Punky, aka Pizza, aka anything-starting-with-a-P). She was part of a litter of abandoned puppies at the vet clinic where our daughter worked, and Yasmin decided that since no one was likely to adopt a dog that was apparently a cross between a Black Lab and a Rottweiler/Pit Bull/etc, we'd have to do it. Pip grew into another great family dog like Wooly - even-tempered, friendly, and fiercely loyal. She didn't like most men, but loved me. You can see her in my profile photo:
And in this picture from a few years ago:
Pip has departed this life for the place good dogs go to chase sticks, lounge on sunny porches, and enjoy ever-full food dishes and water bowls while they wait for us to catch up, and I miss her. She could be frustrating, but as friends go, they don't come any truer.
What do dogs mean to us? In his poem The Power of the Dog, Rudyard Kipling knew. And I'd like to think that for every sadistic moron like Michael Vick who chooses to abuse dogs, there are a hundred people like our friend Jodi who, with her husband Charlie, works tirelessly to rescue and provide homes for abused Akitas.
Want a friend in Washington? Get a dog. If you treat that dog like the living, loving creature it is you will have a loyal friend for life. If you don't, well, it says something about you, doesn't it?
Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.