By Suzanne Sparrow Watson
This is a special day in our house – Dash the Wonder Dog was born three years ago today. It seems like just yesterday that we brought him home…and that we had a life. Since he adopted us our every waking moment has been devoted to his care, feeding and entertainment. As you can see from the picture (left) his job is to lie contentedly on the couch and be cute; our job is to fawn over him. My husband, who was adamantly against getting a dog for the past 25 years, will now not leave Dash alone for more than four hours at a time. Golf games have been sacrificed so he can stay home with the dog. He makes me feel like I am Joan Crawford if I schedule activities that take me away during the day AND at night. Next he’ll be accusing me of using wire coat hangers. Truth be told, it’s been a great three years and as I reflect on what we’ve learned from dog ownership it boils down to a few good lessons.
First – we humans could learn a lot from dogs about assessing new people. We usually utter something like “the jury is still out” when asked about someone recently met. We pause, we take our time in forming an opinion, we seek advice from others. Dogs, on the other hand, get right to the heart of it. They sniff butts. One good whiff can tell them if the new acquaintance is friendly, sociable and what they had for dinner last Tuesday. They make instant judgements that I’m fairly certain are right on the money. The scene at our local dog park is like watching speed dating – one good sniff and the dogs either form a friendship or move on. I’m certainly not suggesting that we sniff butts, although it might be as illuminating a way to pick a President as our current debate system. But I do think that dogs are on to something – we should trust our initial impressions. Usually our gut is a pretty good predictor of who we might want to be friends with and who is to be avoided like Louisiana in July.
Second – we have been amazed by the people we have met just because we have a dog. Every time we take Dash out, which is often, people stop to pet him and talk with us. In fact my test for whether I would want someone as my friend is not the sniff test but whether they smile when they see Dash. People who walk right by or who, worse yet, go out of their way to avoid him, would definitely not make my Christmas card list. But other dog owners in particular do stop and while the dogs are sniffing, we generally have some short conversation about how great our dogs are. We commented last month after one such encounter up in Mammoth Lakes that we have met so many nice people because of Dash. And even though some of the conversations are very short, the cumulative effect is that our lives are happier because of them. One that particularly stands out is Elizabeth Brown, who we met in Tahoe two years ago. She was visiting from England with her parents and grandmother. She was bored to tears (as she told us) until she saw Dash. She was so excited to hold him that she asked if she could have her picture taken. We made sure she asked her parents for permission since we didn’t want to end up on the Sexual Predator list in our neighborhood, and once that was granted we snapped the picture (above). I know that Dash made her trip more enjoyable and to this day we smile when we see the photo. We can thank Dash for hundreds of small meetings that have truly enriched our lives.
Finally, I harken back to a phrase that I heard 30 years ago when I had a cute little mutt – “Lord, let me be the person my dog thinks I am.” It goes without saying – and every dog owner knows this – that there is nothing like the unconditional love of a dog. Really, most of the time I don’t deserve the excitement Dash expends when I walk into the room. We all could probably take note from canine behavior – always happy, intuitive to every emotion, kisses on command, and loyalty. The other day I was in our local pet shop and they had a new supply of the Life is Good tee shirts – the ones with cute dogs and great slogans. My favorite was “Be Your Dog”. There’s not a chance I can be that good, but surely it’s a worthy goal.
Since this is my last post before Thanksgiving I’d like to take a moment to thank all of our subscribers and wish each and every one of you a very Happy Thanksgiving. We truly appreciate your continued support of our weekly attempts to entertain.