Never expecting a tribute in print is one of the many adorable traits of a good pet dog. For a job well done, he (or she, there being mercifully just two canine genders) is perfectly happy with nothing more than a biscuit, a pat on the head, or a scratch behind the ear. But a good dog deserves so much more.
I’m not sure where my love of dogs comes from, but it’s been a powerful impulse for as long as I can remember. Any time I see someone walking one, my eyes go straight to the canine after no more than a momentary glance at the owner. I feel an immediate connection—to the dog.
At ages 12 and 14, my two rat terrier rescues are senior citizens. They’re still in reasonably good health but I dread the day when they won’t be around to greet me when I come home or make sure I get my daily walks. Like all the dogs I’ve had before, I know I’ll never forget them—their loyalty, their quirks, or even their occasional annoyances that were often for my own good.
Every decent dog owner knows his dog is special, and in that, every dog owner is exactly right. The more you love a dog, the more he pays you back in ways nobody else sees or knows. You feel it deep down, and I think he does too. They’re called “man’s best friend” for good cause. I don’t doubt for a minute that I’m a better person because of what my dogs have done for me.
We naturally miss our canine friends when they’re gone, but stories abound of dogs that also miss the humans they love.
In Cadiz, Spain there’s a street named for a dog named Canelo who walked regularly to a local hospital with his master who received dialysis treatments there three times a week. When the owner died, Canelo was cared for by local residents, who watched him walk to that same hospital and wait outside three faithful times each week for the next 12 years.
A statue in Toyko honors an Akita named Hachiko. After the passing of his master, Hachiko returned every day for the following nine years at the same time to the same train station where he had always met his owner upon his return from work.
Who can forget the image of the retriever named Hawkeye, who stayed for hours by the coffin of his owner, a Navy Seal who was killed in Afghanistan in 2011 when the helicopter he was riding on was shot down?
And don’t forget the indispensable work canines do as service dogs, guide dogs, rescue dogs, police dogs and war dogs—all for the purpose of helping their human friends.
A century and a half ago, a young lawyer named George Graham Vest delivered the best speech on dogs, ever. He said in part, “The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog.”
Maybe dogs are God’s way of telling humankind, “You can do better.”
Lawrence W. Reed, a resident of Newnan, is president of the Foundation for Economic Education. He writes about exceptional people, including many from his book, “Real Heroes: Inspiring True Stories of Courage, Character and Conviction.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org