Why dogs are better than most people I know

So the new puppy turns three months tomorrow, and so far, she has exceeded my expectations by not eating any of my boots. This is a wonderful thing. The last time I had a labrador puppy, she ate a couch. No lie. It was a very old couch, and I was planning to replace it anyway, so I decided to let her teethe on it as opposed to anything else in the house. Perhaps not everyone would agree with my logic, but it worked. I happen to believe that black labs are the most wonderful dogs on the face of the earth. They are smart, funny, and fiercely loyal. They aren’t necessarily good guard dogs because everyone is a possible friend as opposed to a possible enemy, but in my house the function of vicious guard dog is served by the two very loud Jack Russell Terriers, one of whom is becoming quite tall horizontally by sneaking into the puppy food. The terriers bark at anything that moves, whether it is in the vicinity of the home-front or a mile away. Boundaries be damned. Give them a good wind storm, and they can bark for hours. Just ask my neighbors.

Perhaps I should pause and introduce my infamous canines. There is the newest member, Tillie, who is so named because she is quite silly and because Tillie Olsen is one of my favorite authors. Then there are the boys: Alfie, named for Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and Shakes, for William Shakespeare, of course. When the boys were puppies, they were quite literate, eating their way through several of my favorite mysteries, having quite a taste for British mysteries by P.D. James and Colin Dexter. Tillie is not quite so discerning; while she has tried her hand at copyright law, she actually prefers electronics better, i.e. remote controls and cell phones.

But I digress . . . what is my decidedly dogged affinity for canines over homo sapiens? Dogs do not play games. Well, they do play games, but their games are usually harmless to humans. They don’t spread malicious rumors about you in the workplace, nor do they take great pleasure in seeing you fail professionally. In fact, when you have a crappy day, you can come home to your dog, and it is that huge canine heart so full of happiness to see you that can make you forget the ugly, petty politics that just sucked your soul from you and left you weeping on I-64. When your personal relationships fail, get custody of the dogs; they’re worth more than the fine china any day.

Dogs will curl up beside you on the couch and keep your feet warm on a cold day, and all that they ask in return is a little love and maybe a cookie once in a while. Okay, if you’re one of my dogs, you expect a cookie every time anyone returns home, but my dogs are incredibly spoiled.

Dogs are also incredible accurate barometers when it comes to reading people. Look at the way an individual treats a dog. It tells you everything you need to know about that person: their generosity of spirit of lack of it, their compassion, their ability to love, how much kindness they have in their heart, or if that person is a cold, cruel, self-serving, hateful bastard who cares not a wit for anyone or anything but himself (witness the merry band of Michael Vick and his dog-fighting cronies). If someone tells you that they don’t like dogs, either they have been bitten by a dog (which is usually a human’s fault), or there is an underlying pathology (but of course, that’s just my take, but the odds of my being wrong are indeed astronomical).

I can’t remember a time in my life when I haven’t had a dog. I once had a mixed breed lab named Murphy. She was my “beautiful girl”; she had a big nose and grey eyebrows, and she followed me from room to room, and when she died of old age, I wept for days. She was one of my shelter rescue dogs, the best kind of dog to have. We buried her in the back yard, under the big oak tree, and put a Celtic cross on top of her. I waited four years before getting another rescue lab. It took that long to be ready for another one. Now Tillie is grabbing pants legs and giving the boy dogs hell. They are having a great time even if the boys are pretending to be annoyed.

It’s wonderful to be able to get my mind off the bad things in life and watch life through a dog’s eyes. I know that it’s escapism and only temporary, but it’s my own little form of meditation and therapy, and I’ll take what I can get.