My great friend Roger tells the story of his wife's grandmother, a farm wife who lived well past 100. When informed that her dog had recently died, Roger expressed his profound sympathy and commented on how hard it is to lose a beloved pet. The wizened old farm woman turned to him and said
"Roger, It's just a dog".
That attitude probably reflects the reality of not only farm life but also the long view of someone who lives a very long life and probably outlived many dogs. She probably had butchered pigs, chickens and maybe even cows and had a very pragmatic view of animal life.
However, she is very decidedly wrong. Dogs are very different from any other animal and they have a very unique connection to humans. This connection is almost extra-sensory in many cases and began forming 20,000 years ago.
Just one good look in a dogs eyes and you can see the connection, the empathy, the psychic bond.
Dogs have given their lives for us in not only a literal way, such as K-9 and military dogs, but also their lives in servitude. Consider a herding dog working every day at his job or a guard dog or maybe a sled dog. Happily doing their job for us every day of their lives. Or maybe a service dog doing unbelievably complex duties for the betterment of their masters. Dogs that can not only take care of disabled people but sense tumors or warn of impending seizures . How about drug and explosive sensing dogs or tracking dogs using using skills far and above what we humans are capable of. Or lifesaving dogs like the mountain dogs or ocean dogs. How about dogs who have saved whole families from fire and other catastrophes.
Many dogs have shown unbelievable loyalty. Often far above what their humans have shown them. Dogs have traveled hundreds of miles to be with their owners, have stood guard over the deceased owners graves.
But you don't have to have a hero dog to appreciate them. Your average dog has many attributes that sometimes we don't appreciate.
As you can see by the header picture of this blog that I have a beautiful dog by the name of Wolfy. (The other beauty is Ali, my granddaughter)
Wolfy is a perfect example of a dog with intelligence, enthusiasm, good humor, bravery and that psychic connection we spoke of. He looks into your eyes and you can feel the penetration of his intellect. When you talk to him he concentrates on what you are saying, tilting his head and cocking his ears. He has learned over forty-five words some of which he can spell. (yes spell). He has the dog's ability to sense whats going on by your body and facial attitudes. He will watch every tiny movement to divine your intentions.
And yet he has a dog's instinct and mentality which we can only hope to understand as well as he does us.
He is lovable. He goes to each member of our family to be stroked, petted and caressed. I can feel my blood pressure go down while I am petting him. (And studies have showed it really does!) He is the only family member who is always, always happy to see you when you come home, almost to the point of delirium. He lies at my feet. He follows me around. He gets fretful when I leave and go places without him.
He is an amazing athlete. He can run and jump and catch balls. He would make a great shortstop if he could throw. He has super endurance while bird hunting covering a hundred times more territory than I and still be ready to go again.
With his strength, speed, endurance and enthusiasm he burns his life force at an alarming rate. He knows not to conserve. He gives life it's all but it's an all to short of a life.
The brightest stars burn out more quickly.
Being "Just a Dog" is a mighty compliment indeed.
The best thing about having Wolfy at this point in my life is that he may outlive me.
And I hope he won't be too sad when I go