Thursday, November 4, 2010

Man's Best (and most patient) Friend

The indignities our pets put up with. Many of those of us who love dogs (and cats) and live with them, consider them family members. We talk to them; we discipline them; we often give them their own “bed” to sleep in; we take them on trips with us; we buy them treats and toys and presents; and when they have a birthday, we sometimes go overboard.

I happen to think the photo above, of my wife with our purebred Collies, is cute. Some would say it’s demeaning; some would be annoyed at the extent to which we’ve gone to pretend our canines are humans. The birthday girl is to the left. Shadow turned 5 last week. She’s a tri-sable Collie. Her “sister” (see what I mean?), Sunny, in the middle of the picture, is a Blue Merle Collie. She’s 2. We got them from the same breeder and they have similar championship blood lines and many common ancestors.

Perhaps that’s why they’re so tolerant of our attempts to humanize them – superior genes. They didn’t fuss a bit when Toni put those party hats on them. They were patient as I maneuvered around them with the camera. They happily put up with all our foolishness and I’d like to believe they loved the attention.

Collies were bred to herd sheep and run all day. They have a long nose to push between sheep and separate them. They need room to run, and are not good “apartment” dogs. We fenced our expansive back yard so they could run to their heart’s content. As working dogs, Collies need a “job.” Since we don’t have sheep, they make sure the deer, squirrels, and wild turkeys remain at bay, as they patrol the fenceline. They take their work seriously.

I learned a long time ago you get out of a relationship with a pet what you put into it. The more you love them, the more they love you.

There’s a lesson for humans in there, somewhere.


  1. It has been said that to err is human, to forgive, canine. But, so tolerant and forgiving are dogs, you should take care not to accept their admiration as proof positive that you are wholly wonderful.

    There is much to be said for dogs, which is apparently why there are so many good quotations about them. Here are a few of my favorites:

    News curmudgeon Andy Rooney: "The average dog is a nicer person than the average person."

    "Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole." So said (persuasively, in my view) Roger Caras, the late American wildlife photographer, writer and wildlife preservationist.

    The 18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant keenly observed: "We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals."

    Abraham Lincoln put much stock in Kant’s sentiment. He said "I care not for a man's religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it."

    The 19th century French poet and author Pierre Jules Théophile Gautier looked at his dog and asked "Who can believe that there is no soul behind those luminous eyes!"

    For my part, I agree with the early 20th century author and cartoonist James Thurber, who declared: "If I have any beliefs about immortality it is that certain dogs I know will go to heaven, and very very few people."

  2. They look pretty happy in those party hats! And, a lot better behaved than the 2 and 5 year olds I have in my house!