It all started when I was a young boy at the ripe old age of eight. Some of my friends had dogs. When I’d go over to hang out with them, we’d play with the dog. We’d throw a ball, and the dog would bring it back. We’d tell the dog to sit, and it sat down. We’d sit on the floor, and the dog would come over and lay down beside us so we could pet it. That was pretty cool.
For over four decades now I’ve owned and/or been working with dogs. Working with dogs is very rewarding! I wouldn’t trade it for much of anything!
But, I’ve also had my patience and my wallet tested to the breaking point, on more than one occasion. I’ve come home to garbage spread all over the kitchen. I’ve also had shredded clothes, couches and chairs. I’ve also had “messes” left for me to clean up at all times of the day and night. I’m a pretty patient person, so they were all taken in stride … for the most part.
Sometimes the health related bills can be more than a lot of mere mortals can take. I’ve had to deal with sickness, injuries and health issues that I never could have imagined in my wildest dreams. There were times I wondered how I’d every pay the vet bills. I was glad I had a credit card so I could charge it for 30 days until I could earn the money to pay the bill. In the past 30 years I’ve spent 10 times more money on vet bills than I have on my own medical care.
But despite all of these things, having a dog around the house has still been a great bargain for me. My dogs have always been my friends. When I walk through the door they have always been glad to see me no matter how late I got there or where I had been.
My dogs have saved me lots of money on therapy and counseling too. That’s because if I have a bad day, all I needed to do is spend a few moments playing and I feel much better. Taking my dogs for a walk has helps me relieve stress, build cardiovascular strength and has helped me loose weight. So, I guess that made them my personal trainers too!
My dogs have also helped me learn a lot about myself. They have tested my patience, my communication skills, and made me “use my head for more than just a hat rack”. (My Dad’s Favorite saying). My patience is tested when they don’t do what I ask the first, second or even the tenth time. They test my communication skills because it forces my to figure out how to “talk dog” so they will understand me. They can’t speak human you know!
Finally, there comes a point in time, (after all of that training, teaching and cleaning up after them), when they reach an age where it’s smooth sailing! They’re well trained, obedient and other than a trip to the vet once a year they’re very low maintenance. We play, go for walks and visit places together. We visit friends (both, 2 footed and four) and have lots of fun. These are truly the greatest days of dog ownership.
Then one day it happens. They start getting old. It seems to happen overnight. Physical changes take place. They begin to loose the intense energy and playful nature they had as puppies and adult dogs.
In ever case, these changes bring back the challenging times again. Like humans, the changes make it more difficult for them to hear, move and see as well. They can’t play as hard or as long, and they spend more time lying around instead of exploring places and things like they did just a few seasons before.
The challenges then turned to something I hoped would never come, but always knew was inevitable. It’s hard to come to grips with the idea that there will be a day when they will no longer be around.
The feeling is one of sadness and helplessness. You spend as much time as possible doing the things you can with them because you know that the time is short. And just when you thought you couldn’t feel any worse, the day comes when you have to say goodbye.
And the pain comes. You tell yourself, “I’ll never do this again”, “I’m never going to get another pet”, or something similar. I have to admit, I’ve said it myself. I’ve actually said, “I didn’t sign up for this, I just wanted a dog!”
It slowly gets better as you go through the grieving process. You talk with friends and family and you remember the good times. It doesn’t take the place of having your best friend around, but it’s comforting to know that the memories will always be there for you.
But I’m what they call, “A glutton for punishment”. Others would call it being a dog-o-halic! Because I just keep getting dogs. I guess I will “Just want a dog” for the rest of my life. Through it all, it is worth having to go through all of the things I have gone through. Now, I can’t imagine Not wanting a dog in my life!