This morning at 5:30 AM I passed another dog owner walking his dogs. “It’s National Dog Day!” I yelled across the street at him. He chuckled, and I ran on. It was 62 degrees this morning, and I enjoyed my run immensely. Even Ashok seemed to be pretty happy with running in the less humid air. On these first days when the humidity dies down, she jumps and bites the air when she walks outside.
I wasn’t born a dog person. I’m a cat person. But, I’ve learned to be a dog person. When I have friends come to stay with me that are dog people, Ashok is noticeably different. She cuddles and jumps in their lap. I always look at them and wonder why she’s not like that with me, but I know that she’s not like that with me because I’m not like that with her. The most amazing thing about her is that she reads people so much better than I can.
A few years ago in Memphis, I was sitting in the waiting room with my friend Elizabeth who also had an appointment with my acupuncturist that night. Ashok always came with me to acupuncture because Marlene is a dog person, and she loved seeing Ashok. Marlene walked in, and Ashok immediately jumped up and was pouncing on her. Marlene bent down and was tussling with her and talking in that ‘doggy’ high-pitched voice. While this excitement was going on, and Ashok was uncharacteristically going nuts, a patient walked out of the treatment room.
She turned toward the chairs, and Ashok ran over there to her. About the time she got there, I noticed that the woman was moving very slowly – as if she was hurt or very, very old. I was afraid that Ashok would pounce on her since she was in that state of excitement that she gets around dog people. The woman reached her hand ever so slowly toward Ashok’s nose, and Ashok immediately sat quietly and did not move. She let the woman touch her, and she never once moved. I looked at Elizabeth and said, “Did you see that?” She said, “Wow. That was amazing.”
It’s moments like those when I’m most happy I have a dog. She does the same thing when a throng of kids comes up to pet her. No matter how excited and crazy they are – pulling her tail and ears – she sits and lets them do whatever they want to her. It’s so cute. She’s not the same with other dogs, though. She turns into Cujo. She will get used to them given a little time, but it’s one of the things I hate about having this dog – her reaction to other dogs. I guess it comes from her being a rescue and being in a single dog household, but it drives me crazy.
Things I’ve learned by having a dog:
- The world is made for groups of people. When I travel in the summer, I can’t leave her in the car. It’s too hot. Rest areas don’t allow dogs in the rest rooms. I often wonder what they expect me to do. The same goes with campgrounds. I can’t leave her alone at the campsite, but I can’t take her in the restroom. I’m in a Catch-22.
- Virtually anything is edible – if you want it to be.
- There is nothing on this earth more exciting than food.
- A dog’s life is way too short. It seems like the ‘sweet spot’ between puppy mayhem and old age lasts only minutes.
- Running and walking are rituals that create the strongest bonds between humans and dogs according to the Dog Whisperer. Having a dog makes me get out and exercise whether I want to or not. Just seeing her jump up and down when I ask, “Do you want to go for a run?” is enough to make me want to lace up my shoes and go.
- Veterinary care is very expensive.
- A dog sees its human as its Higher Power. She is much more comfortable when I’m running things and in charge of what we are doing. Obedience training was a miracle in teaching me how to be a dog owner. It’s not DOG training.
- Dogs dream. I see her twitching and little barks or yelps come out of her mouth. I often wonder if she’s being chased or having a good time.
- A dog can be a pain in the bohunkus and the best gift in the world at the same time. As a single dog owner, much of my life revolves around things I can do with my dog. I made a commitment to her. Sometimes I want to be free of the commitment, but I love the fact that I have a companion that will do almost anything with me gladly. She loves to kayak, hike, run, meet new people and eat vegetables. If I was a different person and liked different things, I think she’d like those things instead.
- I’ve learned most of all that dogs are here to serve their masters. Momma said one time she sat in the back seat of their truck with their dog, Prissy, and she was curious what she did when they were riding. Prissy stared at Daddy the entire time. Ashok stares at me all the time. She is wired to be loyal to me. I have to trick her at the kennel when I’m leaving her. I walk to door as if I’m going with her, and tell her “Yes, I am going to trick you.” The kennel I go to has a glass door where I can see her after she goes through. She turns her head and stares at me all the way back. It breaks my heart every time.
I actually don’t think I’ll ever get another dog. I got Ashok for protection and as a companion for running and camping. But, I may be wrong. Who knows what I’ll feel like after she’s gone, and I no longer have that sweet face looking up to me. I had one dog before her. His name was Arf. Arf was more devoted to himself than me, but I took him everywhere. He was a pocket dog – a Pomeranian, and he was adorable. He also had a horrible problem eating shoes. He ate my shoes, my husband’s shoes, our guest’s shoes… he never outgrew it.
So, today, I’ll celebrate National Dog Day and celebrate both of my dogs. I hope you’ll celebrate yours in some way. And, if you don’t have one – well, go get one. It might change who you are.