I saw a T-shirt that said, “I like a couple of my buddies, my dog, and that’s about it.”
It substantiated what I had long felt, seldom said, and had heard from others. Many of us like our dogs better than most people. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
Every time we lose a dog, I always say I’ll never get another one. It just hurts too much. And if I’m honest, which I am, the hurt often exceeds the loss of a human in my life.
So, I wondered: Why is that?
A bit of navigation on that worldwide web, which my neighbor refers to as, “The University of Google,” revealed something that now seems obvious. People tend to be empathetic to creatures who have few ways of defending themselves.
This includes children, older folks, and animals.
It helped me to understand better why I feel loss when someone I know or love dies, but when I lose a pet I’m almost inconsolable.
Part of it has to be the unconditional love that a dog gives you. As someone wisely said, and I’d give them credit for this if I knew who they were, “An animal is just part of your life. But you are all of theirs.”
Think about it. If the one person that mattered most to you in the entire world left you in any empty house most of the day, wouldn’t you want to jump all over them when they returned?
It’s why I take our dog on car rides in the morning and evening.
Like almost all of our animals, Will has been one of the most expensive free dogs we’ve ever had.
I was on my way home one night after an event when I saw what I thought was a rabbit running across the dark road. No street lights in the country, and my vision isn’t what it used to be. With his long hair, he looked like a rabbit flitting from one side of the road to the other.
He was doing that because he is almost blind, almost deaf, and someone had removed his collar. He had been dumped…at night, in the country, at feeding time for the coyotes.
This is likely one of the reasons I like dogs better than many people. How someone could do this to an animal is beyond me.
Where there’s a Will, there’s a way, so Will became his name. We had to give him a name. After chasing him for 45 minutes in the dark while trying to prevent him from being run over, he spent the next two weeks with us while I tried to find his family.
I just knew that no one could actually be that cruel. Notifications went out throughout the area where I found him, social media was used, and nothing. Nada. Zip.
As we suspected, the owners didn’t want to be found.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. Our two previous dogs had become part of our family the same way. They were dumped.
They both lived pretty kingly lives. They were spoiled rotten and were loved until the end.
Which is the same commitment that’s been made to Will. He not only had hearing and vision problems, he was malnourished.
After a couple of days, we took him to the vet, who told us that he likely had never been fed properly and had probably had to forage for food. His fur was discolored from poor nutrition.
I made a commitment to Will. I said, “Buddy, you may have had the worst life ever up until now, but you’re going to live like a king for the rest of your life.”
And he does. He gets steak if we’re having it. Rotisserie chicken. Apples. If the vet says he can have it, he gets it.
Will goes for walks several times a day, which is now possible because he’s got a prescription that helps with his arthritis.
He’s my best friend who isn’t a human.
My wife, who is my best friend, rolls her eyes at how I spoil him. She shakes her head at the conversations I have with him. And she’s right. He couldn’t understand me, even if he could hear me. Which he can’t.
But that’s OK. I believe he understands me.
I believe he understands that he once wasn’t wanted, and now he is. More than wanted, he’s loved. Very deeply.
The vet said he was about eight to ten years old when I brought him home. That means we don’t have a whole lot of time together.
But that’s OK. We’re making the best of what we have left.
Which is why I understand what the guy with the T-shirt is saying. Completely.
©2023 John Moore
John’s books, Puns for Groan People and Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, are available on his website – TheCountryWriter.com, where you can also send him a message and hear his weekly podcast.