Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms. ~ George Eliot
It's been nearly four years since the passing of Sage, my blind Springer Spaniel, and it's been less than two months since Cody, my cocker spaniel, died. I still miss both dogs. Each was a devoted friend, a faithful companion. Dogs are noted as faithful friends to humankind, often being called "man's best friend." Many news stories recount the dedication dogs have for their people, even for strangers. Those who alert humans to seizures, fire and other dangers; those who protect people from intruders; those who travel great distances to be reunited with their human family, and those that save people from drowning and avalanches – we learn about such stories nearly every day. Cats and dogs are used as therapy, serving in hospitals, nursing homes, and counseling centers. Loyalty is inherent in the gift of a four-footed friend.
People could, and should, take lessons from pets in the subject of loyalty. Adultery, lack of romantic commitment, fizzling of friendship, embezzlement, bullying -- all of these negative character traits, among so many others, speak to the nasty side of humankind; these attitudes and actions are not displayed in our furry companions.
What bonds a pet to a person? People are the caregivers of their pets, feeding, exercising, playing, petting, lounging; we are the guardians. The more one positively interacts with their pet, the stronger the bond, just as the longer one befriends a person the deeper the dedication to that friendship. And yet, we humans can turn on each other in the blink of an eye.
When Sage and Cody were alive, if I was gone on a business trip for several days, my dogs would follow me everywhere upon my return. Our dog Mary waits in a chair that's beside the front door, and the minute my husband or I walk in, being gone for part of the day to work, she greets us with a little happy dance ... and one of her favorite toys. Our pets' desire to be with us speaks volumes about their bond to us.
We can learn a lot from our pets, including a great lesson in loyalty. Broken relationships, greed, selfishness and other negative characteristics often found in humans are rarely seen in pets. There’s a saying that goes, “May I become the person my dogs thinks I am.” That plaque hangs on my wall and it's a great reminder to aspire to be exactly that -- the person my pets think I am, the good person they see in and bring out in me.
My husband and I lost our beloved cocker spaniel, Cody, this week. He was nearly 18 years old and had lived with us for nearly eight years. Our hearts are broken, even though we knew this day would come. Despite our sorrow, we are thankful for the many years, more years than expected when we adopted him for our local Humane Society animal shelter; he was almost ten years old at the time.
In my blog post today at Writing Wranglers & Warriors, a blogging site primarily made up of writers of differing genres and interests, I write a Tribute to Pets, including Cody and Sage, the blind springer spaniel my husband and I were blessed to have for more than ten years. Both Cody and Sage are characters in my inspirational dogs books and stories, and both have positively impacted people's lives, including my own. I hope you'll stop over at the Writing Wranglers site and perhaps remember the pets who have touched your heart and positively impacted your life.
Here's the link: https://writingwranglersandwarriors.wordpress.com/2016/01/24/a-tribute-to-pets/
Pet owners don’t need a special time to honor and celebrate their pets, but during the month of September the American Kennel Club and other organizations remind owners that dogs are a major responsibility and these groups honor dogs and dog owners in various ways.
National Dog Week is generally observed the last week of September; it's a time when dog owners and various organizations honor dogs. William Judy, who started Dog World Magazine during the 1920s, first set aside this special week as a way to celebrate those special creatures most consider “man’s best friend”.
The American Kennel Club (www.akw.org) honors both dogs and owners during Responsible Dog Ownership Days. The AKC is hosting a major event in North Carolina on September 19, and various AKC chapters will host activities highlighting the joy (and responsibility) of owning a dog throughout September. People and organizations can register the many activities they do with their dogs to impart responsibility. To learn more, visit http://www.akc.org/events/responsible-dog-ownership-days/.
Dogs are fun, dogs are loyal, and dogs are a major responsibility. Sadly, many people ignore that fact and treat their dog like a commodity instead of living, breathing being. That's why we have so many dogs in shelters, thousands of which are killed every day in those facilities. Pet ownership irresponsibility is also why there are so many animal rescue organizations that try to find new homes for abused, unloved, unwanted animals. People need to realize and recognize not everyone needs to, or is cut out to, have a pet. If you can't/won't take care of a dog or cat properly, which means providing it not just food, water and shelter, but also love, loyalty, and attention, then DON'T GET ONE! Get a plant or a pet rock instead.
I have had pets since I was seven years old. I didn't always understand the major responsibility it took to have a pet, but as an adult I learned that responsibility, and I love and appreciate the animals in my care. They bring me joy, companionship, and devotion; they lift my spirits, comfort me when I'm sick, and stick by me when I've felt alone and abandoned by human beings. I am thankful, so very thankful, for my pets!
I enjoy sharing the lessons dogs (and cats) can teach us, and I share many of those lessons (of life and faith) in the books I write and the presentations I give. Dogs and cats have served humankind for thousands of years, from rodent control to family and property protector. Native Americans and other cultures used dogs to transport loads (prior to tribes getting the horse). Still today, dogs serve people in a variety of ways: herding and protecting flocks; finding fowl in the field; guiding the blind; assisting wheel-chair bound individuals; rescuing lost children; and bringing smiles to those in hospital beds. And, still people mistreat, maim, and kill these precious living creatures out of evil, spike, and sometimes just a lack of knowledge. Education and empathy are keys to stopping the cruelty and neglect people still inflict upon dogs and cats, and other animals.
May those of us who cherish and appreciate dogs take time to do something to honor and celebrate canines this month. May we also take time to educate others, especially children, to be kinder to animals and to be responsible pet owners. Consider attending a special event near you for Dog Ownership Responsibility Day and take family members and friends. And may we all do our part to help animals in need by helping rescue groups and shelters in our communities. National Dog Week and Responsible Dog Ownership Days can be the catalyst for positive change in how our society views and treats animals.
The small Shitz Tzu who lays in the chair next to the livingroom window, longing for its human friend to return home; the Labrador retriever who obediently brings back the duck brought down by the hunter; the golden retriever who patiently guides its blind person; the abused cocker spaniel who tentatively licks the cheek of its rescuer; the bulky German Shepherd that bravely follows his K9 officer into a violent situation; the long-haired dachshund that lays quietly beside the sick in a hospital bed – all of these canines exhibit qualities to which humans can relate and from which we can learn.
Dogs showcase amazing and true life lessons, from loyalty to forgiveness, from friendship to sacrificial service. Below are just six out of numerous life lessons dogs can teach us:
When I was a child growing up and attending elementary school in Iowa, I had a best friend named Shelly. In Junior High and High School my best friend was named JoAnn; in college, it was Cindy, and as a young woman, my roommate Lisa became like the sister I never had. All of these best friends had one thing in common: they accepted me for who I was – no judgments, no trying to change me, no ulterior motives. That’s rare these days in human beings. I remain good friends with each of these ladies yet today, and I am thankful for them.
In our pets, we find the above-noted traits and countless others: loyalty, affection, acceptance, friendship, love. And, companion animals waiting for a home and people of their own have best friends in the staff and volunteers at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Located in Kanab, Utah, Best Friends Animal Society and Sanctuary provides a home for dogs, cats, horses, rabbit, birds, pigs, goats, and numerous other species while those animals await permanent, loving homes.
Best Friends became best friends to animals affected by Hurricane Katrina, saving them and finding new homes for them. They were – and still are -- best friends to the dogs traumatized by the Michael Vick dog fighting ring – Best Friends gave them a new, better, loving life. Best Friends takes in feline leukemia cats, blind dogs, and swayback horses. They work with those who fear and distrust humans due to cruelty, neglect and/or abandonment. Best Friends staff and volunteers love, accept, work with, and help the animals many would ignore, devalue, and kill.
Best Friends Animal Society turns 30 years old this year. I was blessed to spend just a few short hours at the sanctuary for tours, and I came away inspired, awed, and with a new resolve to help however I can. The people, place, animals, and organizational mission is inspiring and awe-striking.
I’ve been blessed with several furry best friends: Sam, Ama, Sage, Cody, Mary, Murphy, Bailey – each an individual, just like each person is an individual. And yet, every day 9,000 individual lives are killed in shelters every day, not because they are ill but because we humans don’t value their lives. We give them up because we’re moving, having a baby, lack time (or so we say) or don’t spay/neuter them to prevent litters. In other words, because we don’t take responsibility for their care: those animals that depend on us just as a human baby/child does are viewed as disposable or an inconvenience, not as an individual life for which we are responsible. It’s time to wake up, people, and view all life as a gift from the Creator who made each person, each animal as an individual, and when He created, He called that creation “good.”
Be a Best Friend – be a responsible pet owner – and be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves … just like Best Friends Animal Society. Learn more about No More Homeless Pets and the Save Them All campaigns at www.bestfriends.org. Let’s be the caring, kind, compassionate, benevolent people we are created to be and value and cherish the individual lives the Creator made and blessed – after all, He called them, and us, all of His creation “good.”
Christmas is over. I enjoyed time with family and friends and much of that time was shared with my pets. -- and I still have a few days to be at home with them as we approach the New Year. My furry friends have been, and are, a constant reminder of what love and loyalty really are – the great comfort they bring when one has a stressful or difficult day, the joy they bring because they are always happy to see you, the solace they offer when you're ill, and the special companionship they give just simply by “being there.” Pets are truly amazing creatures!
I have been a pet owner since childhood. Both cats and dogs have graced my life and my home. As a child growing up on an Iowa farm, I spent endless hours outdoors, taking care of the animals and walking the woods surrounding our place. Most times, either a dog or cat accompanied me. Those memories transcend time and impact my life today.
I have an office set up at home, a space I use for my writing projects. I am rarely alone in that room. Furry friends surround me: Cody snoozing on a dog bed a short distance from my desk, Mary lying near the office chair, and Murphy either lying right next to the computer or on her cat bed on top of the printer. Often in the midst of my concentration, I pause and glance over at one or all of them – they want to be where I am. Their loyalty and dedication rivals most human friendships … and their presence brings calm to my often chaotic life, especially when I face deadlines. Yes, pets can be a lot of work – walking the dog, entertaining the cat, taking care of them when they're sick (vet bills can be very expensive!), training, food, etc. … but what they give us in return is priceless!
What bonds a pet to a person? People are the caregivers of their pets, feeding, exercising, playing, petting, lounging; we are the guardians. The more one positively interacts with their pet, the stronger the bond. Loyalty is inherent, especially in a dog.
We can learn a lot from our pets, including lessons in loyalty and love. Broken relationships, greed, selfishness and other negative traits often found in humans are rarely displayed in our pets. There’s a saying that goes, “May I become the person my dogs thinks I am.” Such a plaque hangs on my wall. Such a philosophy reigns in my heart.
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.