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