Thursday, February 26, 2015

Lessons from Our Dogs

Birth Announcement: I am proud to announce that Peaches (our sweet Westie) gave birth to seven healthy puppies this morning. It was exciting to behold! Mamma and babies are all doing well.

Are there any dog-lovers out there? Now, if you happen to be a cat person, please don’t take offense. My allergies simply aren’t conducive to keeping them in our home, though my wife and I have tried in the past unsuccessfully.

For the past twelve years, we have been raising Westies (i.e., West Highland Terriers). They are relatively hypoallergenic.

This journey started when our daughter Olivia, upon turning five, was given the pick of the litter for her birthday present from my parents-in-law, which bred Westies. Our daughter promptly named the little white bundle of joy Penelope. Over the years, we’ve developed a number of nicknames for her including, among others, Manna (because she’s the sweet stuff from heaven).

A couple of months ago, we thought we were about to lose Penelope when she took very ill, in hindsight presumably from food poisoning. At the time, we just figured it was old age. We witnessed the tear-jerking scene in our living room with the kids saying their “last goodbyes,” prayers being offered and everyone getting choked up.

We didn’t think she’d make it through the night, but, to our surprise and relief, she began to bounce back the next morning. In fact, she is busy taking an afternoon nap on top of the sofa as I write this column. Lord willing, we’ll be blessed with her company for a while longer.

Penelope gave us seven litters until we eventually got her spayed. She definitely earned her keep. Other Westies that have graced our home have included Bosley, Lily, Peaches, Peggy Sue, and Mack. We currently have the last three plus the matriarch Penelope.

Our feisty Peggy Sue gave birth to four puppies a few days before Christmas of which three survived. This was her first litter and she has was a wonderful little mama, extremely attentive to and protective of her babies.

Pets are such wonderful gifts from God. They provide much enjoyment and entertainment as well as loyalty, comfort and unconditional love. Of course, they’re also a responsibility, but one well worth it. We can learn a lot from observing our dogs.

Have you ever noticed how emotionally in-tune most dogs are with their owners? They sense sadness or nervousness and instinctively know how to provide comfort and care through cuddling on the couch, licking your hand, staring up with those “knowing” and concerned eyes, or quietly whimpering. As humans, we are often too caught up in our own concerns to notice and respond to the needs of others—emotional or otherwise. We’re not as alert as we ought to be.

Dogs are fiercely loyal animals and know where they belong and where home is. This reality has been reflected in a number of popular movies (like “Homeward Bound” and “The Incredible Journey”) loosely based on true stories of dogs (and cats) which have undertaken long and arduous journeys to find their way back to their owners after being stolen, separated, or lost. Loyalty and love are attributes that are frequently lacking in many human families these days.

The saying that dogs are “man’s best friend” holds significant truth. Of course, it’s hyperbole, but we all understand what it means. Dogs are always happy to see and greet you when you get home from being away. They will bark while peering through the window or between the cracks in the fence with their tails wagging behind them in pure joy. Wouldn’t it be nice to receive that type of warm welcome from our families and friends each time we saw them?

Dogs have been known to protect their owners (or pack) from harm, even when it has meant endangering their own lives in the process. They are sacrificial creatures that are willing to place the welfare of their loved ones ahead of their own. We can learn much about friendship by observing our dogs’ selfless and courageous behavior.

Finally, dogs really know how to relax. They often bask in the sun. They also know how to have fun. These are important lessons for us to learn too. All work and no play …