Monthly Archives: April 2009

My Dogs’ (Former) Dad

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Note: Since writing this, Mike and I have gone our separate ways but I will always appreciate his connection with our dog family.

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My dogs are lucky dogs. They have an amazing dad. He is their chief caretaker, feeding them, playing with them, and vigorously petting them all every day. They line up for these vigorous rub downs from the “Master Petter” as I like to call him.

He talks to them as if he is absolutely sure they understand, and when they talk to him, using various vocalizations, he seems to always understand. “What does he want?”, I recently asked when Tanner, our teenage German Shepherd, began to whine and dance. “He wants me to go out and watch him play,” Mike explained. “You mean he wants you to play with him?” I asked. “No” Mike responded, “he just wants me to watch him run around.” They make the trek outside together and sure enough, Tanner begins to do laps around the backyard. “Look at me, Dad!” his antics seem to say. Mike watches with amusement and Tanner is happy for the audience. Yes, my dogs have a great dad.

Perhaps the best thing about my dogs’ dad is that he understands that dogs are not machines. They sometimes steal his food, the remote (God forbid!), or his place on the couch. Occasionally, they chew up things they shouldn’t (our 8-year old greyhound has suddenly developed a mid-life penchant for pillows), dig in inconvenient places, and one of them eats poop. But my dogs’ dad is patient, forgiving, and kind. “Human error” he says, when his socks end up in the backyard, recognizing he should have put them in the hamper. Yes, my dogs and I are thankful for their dad.

My dogs’ dad has never met a dog he didn’t like. I sometimes ask him to help me with clients’ dogs who have a fear of men. These dogs will sometimes bark and lunge and look very scary as their adrenaline throws them into “fight or flight”. My dogs’ dad helps them understand that he is friend, not foe, but the process can take time, patience, and sometimes courage. “What do you think of Beau?” I ask after a session with a big, burly, scary looking dog who barked and lunged at him in a ferocious way. “I like Beau.” he says, “I feel bad that he’s so stressed. Beau’s a good dog.” To Mike, every dog is a good dog, even when they do bad things.

As I write this blog, my dogs’ dad is in the ICU, not terribly conscious of all that is going on around him as the tubes and machines maintain and monitor his life. While he can not talk, I have discovered that if I can ask the right question, he can nod to indicate a “yes”. “Do you want me to sneak in Quaid (our large, drapey, greyhound) to snuggle at your feet?” I ask, knowing this is not possible, but wanting to suggest some comfort. Just as my dogs love and need their dad, so their dad loves and needs them. With a clear, deliberate nod, my dogs’ dad says “yes”.

To return to Sarah Richardson’s Canine Connection web site, go to:
www.thecanineconnection.com

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Ode to Old Dogs

lenny3A year or so ago I had a moment of truth. I looked at my beloved Lenny and realized his eyebrows had turned a distinguished shade of silver grey – or had they – weren’t they always this color? After all, he is a grey dog! I rushed to find a photo of Lenny from his younger days to compare with his current features, hoping it would confirm that Lenny’s blue merle fur was not showing signs of age. I found a photo and a youthful Lenny looked out from it. No silver eyebrows there. I realized his once boldly mottled coat had become muted as time had floated by.

Lenny has always been an “old soul” – one of those dogs who seems to intuitively understand what’s going on and has an air of calmness about him. He has been my number one sidekick for almost twelve years. He showed up as a spindly, teenage stray, so thin and lithe that at first glance I thought he was a little doe, not a dog. As I look back on his adolescence, a time when many dogs are abandoned or rehomed because of unruly behavior, I remember Lenny as being near perfect. Of course, the chewed corner of my coffee table attests to a few transgressions here and there, but those are long past, and are a small price to pay for the privilege of having my now old dog.

Old dogs are treasures. Their soft eyes are windows to their gentle souls. Their graying muzzles are testaments to their success in learning how to navigate the human world. Their slower gait allows them, and us, to relax and breathe just a bit more deeply. I believe it is our greatest privilege to be able to care for old dogs in the special, senior years.

I have often said that if I win the lottery or inherit riches from a long lost relative, I would build a sanctuary for homeless, older dogs. It is a tragedy that our world is full of senior dogs who are left to complete their lives alone. So many people bypass older dogs when looking for a furry friend, yet older dogs are the most faithful, gentle, and calm. Old dogs are champions.

As I look at my beloved Lenny, his silver eyebrows remind me how quickly time flies and how precious each and every day is with my loving, loved, and loyal friend. The past is full of wonderful moments defined by more youthful zest, but today – this day with my old dog – is the best gift of all.

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Postsript: Lenny died on January 13, 2011. He was with me almost 13 years. He was about 14 years old when he died. I miss him every day. I always will. Thank you, Lenny, for being my dog. See you later. I love you.

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To return to Sarah Richardson’s Canine Connection web site, go to:
www.thecanineconnection.com