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Tommy Druen: Dogs are good for people
Previous Column: The lesson I have taken from 2021
By Tommy Druen
Christmas came early for me this year. A couple of weeks before, my wife and I ventured to the small community of Cromwell, Kentucky and picked up an eight pound, bouncing baby boy . . . with black and white fur and a wagging tail. Our lives, and our floors, have not been the same since.
Colonel is an 11-week-old sheepadoodle. Like many of us, he got a little fluffier over the holidays. Unlike most of us, he's right at double his weight from mid-December. And after his first visit to the veterinarian, we realized that the size we initially anticipated was a low estimate, as the doctor told us he should end up around eighty-five pounds. He's going to be a big boy.
He is goofy and awkward, with his oversized paws getting him into precarious situations. He has nipped both our children, chewed on shoes, and attempted to herd the cat on more than one occasion. But he also likes to snuggle, take rides and looks pretty dapper in a bow tie. We may be only a few weeks into this relationship, but sometimes love at first sight really does exist. We're going to be best friends.
I have been around dogs all my life. Some of my earliest memories involve a couple of my dad's beagles.
When I was in fifth grade, my parents decided they wanted to breed and show basset hounds. Going to dog shows, I had a unique opportunity to see, and pet, every breed of dog within the American Kennel Club. (This was the origin of my love of sheepdogs.) As soon as we got our own house, my wife and I brought a labradoodle named Cassius into our family . . . soon followed by Lola, the most dramatic basset hound you have ever met, who is also now another target of Colonel's obsessive drive to herd. Lola does not find this nearly as entertaining as Colonel.
Dogs are good for people. In a time of such acrimony, dogs are a unifying force that almost everyone can agree on and talk about, despite whatever other differences they have in their lives. Over the past several years, I have noticed more places that are dog-friendly. You will see restaurants with water dishes on their sidewalks. Banks and pharmacies now have treats at their drive-thru windows. And towns are incorporating dog parks into their recreational facilities. Personally, I think these are all great. However, nowhere has it been more obvious than with the rise of emotional support dogs. Not that this should be any surprise. Dogs have been there for us for millennia, in thick and thin.
A couple of years ago I was working on a project and needed a bit of a change of scenery. I packed up the laptop and went out to the patio at Country Boy Brewing. Now, in all honesty, despite trying to like it on multiple occasions, I despise the taste of beer. But I like the atmosphere and I am friends with one of the owners, so it's not rare I find myself there with a glass of water and appetizers. Anyway, there was another gentleman on the patio by himself, except for his scruffy looking dog. Taking a break for a minute, I strolled over to his table and commented on the dog and asked if I could pet him. The man said it would be fine, but politely said he didn't really care for a conversation as he didn't care for people much.
I sat there and petted the dog for just a couple of seconds before the conversation that I had been told wouldn't happen began. It started out with him telling me how that dog had saved his life. He said that he had been in the military and served in Iraq. When he came home, he found himself in a dark place; alone, abusing various substances and tormented by the horrors of war. Sadly, it's not a story that unique. One day, though he said he sat in his apartment with a gun to his head, ready to end it all. He looked over and saw his dog, that little scruffy dog, staring back at him. He said he realized that dog depended on him. He didn't mind the thought of pulling the trigger, but he couldn't stand the thought that his dog might suffer because no one would know he was there by himself. He credited that dog with saving his life and inspiring him to get the help he needed. I sat there and listened, not knowing what to say, but scratching that dog's belly extra well.
Of all of Martin Luther's writings, important as they were, the wisest words he ever penned may have been, "The dog is the most faithful of animals and would be much esteemed were it not so common. Our Lord God has made His greatest gifts the commonest."
My wife gave me one of the Lord's greatest gifts this year, but it is not one I own but one that owns me. We're going to be there for each other during low points while having a lot of good times along the way. I'm his human and he is my friend!
Tommy Druen is a native of Metcalfe County, with roots in Adair County going back to the 18th century. He presently lives in Georgetown, Kentucky and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story was posted on 2021-12-29 10:22:38
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