Let’s begin at the beginning which we know is a very good place to start. My love affair with dogs started very shortly after I made my way into the world – kicking and screaming and annoyed at the bright lights in the delivery room which had disturbed the comfortable warm, dark and secure accommodations I had previously enjoyed.
A short while later I went to a new place that I would call home until the time that I went off to college. It was a small apartment filled with an amazingly loving and wonderful buff colored Cocker Spaniel named Taffy who would act as a surrogate guardian for my parents and grandmother.
Mom and this guy called Dad had disappeared for about a week on something that was called a honeymoon. They had been married on Flag Day and ten days and a year later I popped into the world. This was back in the days when the sequence of events was getting married and then having children. Even then, (although we had not yet invented the word), there were people who were dyslexic and got these instructions backwards – but they were relatively few in number and polite people didn’t talk about them.
Now Mom had gotten Taffy as a puppy – but by the time of her marriage he was twelve years old and very devoted to her. She was concerned that he might be jealous of this new addition to the family. As it turned out, she had nothing to fear. Taffy considered it his duty to take care of this baby, sleeping by the side of my crib, ever vigilant should anything or anyone disturb me.
Perhaps he saw in me a kindred spirit. Maybe it was the fact that I pooped and piddled with abandon in those old fashioned cloth diapers which Mom and Grandma had to wash out and launder and then reuse. Perhaps those smells reminded him of the others of his kind whom he knew only by the aroma that they left on the fire hydrant down the street. In any event, Taffy assumed the role of my protector and guarded me with all his might.
After awhile my parents decided to introduce me to the wonders of Central Park. I had a big English stroller carriage and Taffy and I would ride in it together. I would gum his ears with my mouth and do the same to his nose. He reciprocated these affronts to his dignity by showering my hands and face with licks and then would resume his rest at the foot of the carriage, always attentive if a stranger came too close to his baby.
Taffy lived to be nearly seventeen. I was in the apartment but sleeping when he passed away near my little bed. My parents removed his body before I awakened and had it cremated. When I got up that morning I remember looking for him. That was when I first became aware of the principle that where there is life there is also death. I remember crying inconsolably at the loss of my very devoted friend.
A week later my folks came home with Taffy’s ashes – and a new addition to our little family. This was a pure black Cocker Spaniel puppy whom they named Ace. And after Ace there was Andy and a succession of wonderful companion dogs with whom I have been privileged to share my home and my heart with the sole exception of the four years I lived in college dorms.
One of those dogs was a gift, some were rescues, all have been wonderful friends. Whether it was the two goofy Irish Setters, Finney and Tristan, the wonderful Newfoundland/Belgian Shepherd mix, Josh, the German Shepherd mix, Dusty, the Golden Retrievers, Dickens and Spenser and now, my Lane Bryant girl the Irish Wolfhound look alike, Gracie. They have all been the most constant and devoted companions. And, of course, now there are the three Golden Retrievers for whom Gracie and I have been surrogate parents for much of this past year, Bubba, Bébé and Kali.
I had expected their owner to ask us to care for them over Thanksgiving as he was hoping to visit relatives out of town. As it turned out that trip did not occur and so Gracie and I celebrated the holiday together. But on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I received a call from him to let me know that he wasn’t feeling well and thought that, if I could, it would be better for them to stay a few days with me rather than with his girlfriend and her three dogs. So I arranged to meet her at the dog park to pick up the kids. Gracie and I hadn’t seen them for just over two weeks.
When we got to the park, I could see Kali was the closest of the three. Her parents were at the far end and were facing away from Gracie and me. She suddenly spotted the two of us and took off in our direction, running and barking in her very treble voice. This caused mom and dad to turn around and they too began running toward us at full kilter.
I would have to say that this reunion lasted for at least five minutes, all three of them showering their affection on both Gracie and me and raising such a ruckus that four people who were passing by the outer fence of the park stopped to watch the whole thing. One of the men in the park came over and said I must be the “Dog Whisperer” of Las Vegas.
I don’t know why dogs seem to have an affinity for me or I for them. Perhaps it is because we are cast from the same mold of simplicity. They ask for so little. A home, some food and water and a little bit of love. Yet they return so much loyalty and affection for what we bestow on them. And as for me, the gratitude I see in their face after they have enjoyed a meal, followed by one of them curling up in my lap is the greatest gift I could imagine receiving.
If all our world leaders had a companion dog as a guide to teach them their ways this might be a more harmonious planet. For in the end, we make the choice if we should follow a path of anger and hatred and war – or whether we should walk down the road letting the simple joy of loving be our guide.