The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘Pets’


Let me begin by saying that I have far more confidence in our canine population than I have for any politician whom I have ever met whether in person or via the media.  Dogs are honest.

My Grandmother shared a bit of her old wives’ wisdom with me at an early and impressionable age.  Perhaps because I viewed her as a guiding light of both principle and common sense, I took her message to heart.

“Never trust people who don’t like dogs; and never trust people whom dogs don’t like.”

By and large, I put the most faith in the second part of that statement.  I realize there are some people who might have had a bad experience with a dog as a child and who have developed canine phobia as a result.  I can understand the reason for their fear.

But I have never seen my companion dogs’ instincts about people be wrong – and I’ve lived with some of the most docile breeds of dogs throughout my entire life.

Because it is the nature of our best friends to be gentle and loving, my dogs, if they didn’t care for someone, didn’t exhibit their dislike by snarling or attempting to attack the person.  They simply wandered off to avoid his or her company.  That was a clear sign that they sensed something that I couldn’t see about that individual.  Inevitably, they were correct in their assessment.

Now you might consider this all the mistaken ramblings of a dog lover – I admit to being that.  But consider how science has shown that the mere act of petting a dog helps with human health, lowering blood pressure and restoring a sense of well-being and an increase in endorphin levels.

And then there is the issue of how dogs provide us with greater personal security.

Over the years I have known many active and retired policemen and policewomen.  Everyone of them says, “Forget your burglar alarms.  Nobody listens to them and by the time we get the report, it’s too late because the crime has already been committed and the intruder has long before gotten out.  Get a dog.  Whether it is big or small, the mere sound of a dog barking inside your house will deter 95% of the burglars from breaking in.”

If my police acquaintances are correct, that’s a pretty impressive record of deterrence that our canine friends have compiled.

There are a lot of us who think that in our excuse-based America, where everyone is a potential victim and the plaintiff in yet another frivolous law suit, the eyes of justice are not only blind but stupid.  I put myself firmly in that camp.

It is not hard for me to imagine a scenario in which a burglar enters a home and the family dog attacks this intruder.  Of course, the intruder, suffering a few superficial bites, becomes the victim and the dog and his owner become the assailants.  Naturally, there is a waiting band of trial lawyers who are drooling to take the “victim’s” case.

If you think that this is hypothetical nonsense, please click on the link below to read a recent example of one woman’s plight in Toledo, Ohio after her dog bit an “alleged” intruder.  (N. B.  The dog has already been “convicted” of biting while the intruder enjoys his status as an “alleged” intruder).

If you read the story, perhaps you will agree with my sentiment, “Good for Duke”!  He did his job and he did it well and I hope that blind justice will prevail in his favor and in his owner’s.

As we embark on our emotion-laden discussion over guns and the rights of people to protect themselves from those in our society who are violent, I wonder if the next item on the agenda, as we attempt to disarm ourselves and make the world a safer place for the criminal element, will be a conversation about whether we have the right to share our lives with dogs.

Congress and the President better watch out.  If you think you’ve seen an emotional response over the tragedy at Newtown, CT, I’m here to advise you – don’t even think about tampering with our rights to have companion dogs in our lives.  We might be disarmed – but we’re 120,000,000 strong – and we could be dangerous to your health – and political futures.


After I lost Dusty I experienced one of the deepest despairs of my life.  Perhaps because he had been so brutally abused as a young dog I always felt that more than with any of my other companion dogs I had to show him as much love as my soul possessed.  As much as I tried I was never certain that was sufficient to overcome the abuse he had known.

Of all the companions I have had throughout my life, I have to admit that I took his death the hardest.  His good friend, my Golden Retriever, Spenser whom he had raised clung even more to me than before Dusty died.

I knew there were people who were well-intentioned and would ask me, “Are you going to get another dog.”  People who made that remark generally didn’t have dogs in their own lives.  Their view of animals was that they were possessions, like a lamp or a rug.  If it wears out or the fashion changes you get a new one.  They’ve sadly missed one of the most important relationships that helps us understand our humanity.

On the one hand I did want to get Spenser a companion.  I wanted him to have the companionship he had known – and perhaps grow into being the teacher rather than the student.  It was, however, far too soon for me.

A year and a half went by and I was looking to list some items on Craig’s List, searching for the appropriate category.  As I was perusing the items that were listed, I happened to see a picture – a picture of a beautiful puppy with a loving face.  She was the last of a litter of ten and was being given away to a good home.  I knew that this was to be Spenser’s new companion – and mine.

When I called, the family said that she had been tentatively adopted.  The family’s kids had named her, Spike.  I put forth my emotional best, telling them how I had enjoyed the company of dogs my entire life, had taken care of my blind Irish Setter, Finney for over fifteen years; in general I talked myself up as a responsible, caring and loving person who, if Spike and I were to come together as a family would provide only the best food, the greatest care and as much love as anyone could offer.

So they agreed to meet with me.

I drove to their home about an hour later and fell in love with Spike (although I was less fond of her name).  So after we chatted for a bit they said they would be happy for me to have her (the previous adopted parents had backed out while I was driving there.  They decided this puppy was going to grow up to be too big for their apartment).

I asked them if they would hold her to the following day so that I would have time to buy the stuff necessary to “puppy-proof” the house.  I think that they would have preferred that Spike and I leave together so that they could break down the area where they held the puppies, but they finally agreed to my request.

So I left Spike with them, went to a variety of places where I found stuff that made drawers baby and puppy-proof and got all the rest of the accoutrements necessary to welcome a new member of the family into a house that was secure from her intrusions.  I also stopped by Border’s to pick up a CD for the kids.

When I met with the family it was clear that the kids had enjoyed the experience of seeing the ten puppies grow during their eight weeks with them – and that they missed those puppies as they disappeared one by one.  Dad assured them that they would have family “reunions” and they would see the puppies again.  But that never happened – although I would have enjoyed meeting Spike’s siblings.  So, believing that this might actually be in the cards in the future, I had a plan to change Spike’s name and I wanted the kids to agree to this change – hence the CD.

The next day I returned to pick up Spike as we had agreed.  It was Sunday and the kids were home.  Now the family lived in an area all of whose streets had musical attributions.  There was Verdi Way, Arpeggio Lane and they happened to live on Handel Street.

When I met the kids I showed them Spike’s new collar and lead and the toys I had bought for her – just to reassure them that she was going to be happy in her new home with me.  They seemed to think I was okay – so that was step one in my plan for changing Spike’s name.  Then I handed them the CD.

I explained, that once upon a time, before there were CD’s we had something to play music which we called records.  The very first record which I bought was “Messiah” written by a man named Georg F. Handel – the same man for whom their street had been named.  (This seemed to impress them – at least a little).

Then I explained that on that record, there was a soloist who was a black woman.  I pointed out that Spike was also black and a girl.  (They seemed to be warming up to my presentation a little).

And I explained that woman was a very famous singer.  Her name was Grace Bumbry.

So, in conclusion, I said, “Since you live on Handel Street, and since Spike is black and a girl and since this wonderful singer was named Grace – would it be okay if I were to change Spike’s name to Gracie?”  They smiled and agreed with me.

And that’s how Gracie got her name.



A few days ago at our afternoon outing at the dog park, Gracie and I met up with several of the regulars whom we see there.  As usual, Jade who is a thirty-five pound mixed breed rescue dog saw me and came over, jumped up on her hind legs, resting her front paws on my knees and I bent down so that she might administer the obligatory and enthusiastic face-licking.

She and Gracie get along well – but I wouldn’t describe them as pals.  Their common bond is me and I think that Jade must have heard the expression, “The friend of a friend is my friend.”

As it turned out that particular outing, a new dog was introduced into the mix.  He was a puppy about ten months old and was very exuberant in his wanting to play.  Unfortunately, he hasn’t yet acquired the social grace of understanding the difference between “play” and “aggressive play”.  For whatever reason he decided that Gracie was the apple of his eye and he was going to “play” with her  – whether she wanted to or not.

At first, Gracie was content simply eluding him as she could easily outrun him.   Being the lady that she is, she thought that should be sufficient to let this puppy know she really had no interest in playing with him.  The newcomer was not in the least deterred and would come up to her and grab hold of her lengthy head hair and pull down on this.  She was patient with him – but she was clearly annoyed by this behavior.

She came over and lay down next to me as I sat on the grass.  The intruder was not put off by this but continued to pull at the hair on her ears – doing so hard enough to cause her to yelp.  At that point I loosened his teeth from her ear and shooed him away.  But he returned and continued to bite at Gracie’s leg.

Then our mutual friend, Jade began observing the goings-on.  When the puppy again attacked Gracie she got in the act.  She ran over to the puppy who was fifty percent heavier than she and got right in his face and began barking furiously at him to stop.  She was defending the friend of her friend from further attack.

The puppy, with my encouragement, finally released his grip and wandered off.  Gracie looked at me gratefully – and Jade came up to me for a second face licking and I gave her a big hug for her devotion to the both of us.

This led me to think of this week’s (Not Yet) Famous Quote:

“We humans could learn a great deal about fidelity and friendship by observing the actions of our companion dogs.”

– Juwannadoright


 It was about two weeks before Christmas. I had been invited by one of my former professors to join him and his family for dinner. As he was one of my favorite teachers, I looked forward to spending an evening with them.

 He lived in an area called Madison Park – well within walking distance from my apartment.

 I was checking the numbers on the glass entry ways and was four apartment buildings away from my professor’s home when I was grabbed by three thugs with switch blades, forced into the lobby of the closest building, made to lie on the floor – and that’s the last I remember.

 Apparently, one of my assailants knocked me unconscious with a strong kick to my head. When I awoke, I remember being mad at myself for leaving the windows of my apartment open. I was freezing cold. Not only had my attackers taken my wallet – as little as it contained – they had taken almost all my clothes. It was about twenty degrees outside.

 I remember making the effort to get up and then lying back down on the cold tile floor of the apartment building’s foyer. Fortunately, one of the residents of the building came home, saw me lying there half-naked and went to her apartment to phone the police.

 I spent three days in the hospital with a minor concussion. What concerned my doctors more than the concussion was the damage which had been done near my right eye. They were concerned that I might lose the sight in the eye and possibly the eye itself. But I was lucky. Their fears proved themselves to be unfounded and I was left with good sight – but a very nasty bruise on the side of my face. This took almost two months before it healed completely.

 At the time I was the organist at St. Thomas the Apostle Church. I had gotten to know many of the Dominican nuns who taught at the church’s school and they decided to work on a new mission – to get me a dog for “protection.” They worked their magic among the parishioners and took up a collection for this purpose.

 The result of their efforts was that after I finished playing for services one Sunday I was met by Mother Mary Margaret, the convent’s Superior and a formidable woman. In a large bassinet rested a little Irish Setter puppy. Mother Mary handed this adorable puppy to me and said, “This puppy is for you so that you have both company and protection.”

 I was overwhelmed – but my life-long love of dogs, that adorable face with its tongue constantly sticking out and wanting to lick someone – made my decision easy.

 I gratefully accepted the puppy and carried him in his transport to my apartment. This, of course, demonstrated that while Dominican nuns might be well-versed in the arts of education, they had little knowledge of dog breeds.

 Well, Father Featherstonehaughe and I came home. (That was his official name). In case you’re wondering how it is pronounced, it is an ancient Welsh name and the correct pronunciation is Finshaw. Who can quibble with the vagaries of the Welsh tongue? And so Finney – as he was better known – came into my life and heart.

 Irish Setters had become very popular and were over-bred. Finney was a victim of that popularity and had a genetic defect – Progressive Retinal Attrition. He started losing his sight when he was six months old and by the time he was one and one half years he was totally blind. Because of the gradual loss of his sight he had acclimated to my apartment and rarely bumped into anything. For the next fifteen years I had the privilege of being his “seeing-eye person.”

 Finney was one of the most loving animals on the planet. When someone came up to us, he liked nothing better than to lick that person’s hand – and, if he thought he could get away with it – jump up and extend his admiration to their face.

 When he was three years old I had him out for his evening stroll in the park across from our apartment. A man was walking about 100 feet away from us. This man was acting strangely. As he walked he would jerk spasmodically and talk to himself. I thought he was either drunk or on drugs.

 I don’t know what Finney was thinking but he sat down on my feet – pointing in the direction of this man – and began snarling. (I had never heard him do this before). As the man walked through the park, Finney swiveled on his rump, remaining on my feet, and continued pointing at this man. And he kept snarling.

 When I got back to my apartment building I ran into one of my neighbors and described what had happened. She was incredulous. “Finney snarled at someone? That’s ridiculous. He’s the sweetest dog in the world,” she said.

 I dismissed the event for three weeks until I came home one night and picked up my mail. The weekly edition of the local newspaper had arrived. As I was reading through it I saw a picture of the man from the park in the “Police Blotter” section. He had been arrested for committing multiple home break-ins in the neighborhood.

 Finney never snarled at anyone again for the rest of his life.

 So to get to the title of this post – one of the things that I remember more than all of grandma’s other bits of simple wisdom was this statement:

 “Never trust people who don’t like dogs. And never trust people who dogs don’t like.”

 It has been my life-long experience that in this, as in so many other things, grandma was right.


Tag Cloud