I thought that canine companions had not been a major part of my life. A dog was never part of my household. My parents told me we could never have a dog because my grandmother (who lived across the street) was terrified of them. Most of my adult life was lived in the big city. Fish, gerbils, turtles, Guinea pigs, etc. fit more easily into our lifestyle.
On second thought, dogs have been part of my life in different ways. Next door to the house, in which I lived from age 0 to 13, was a dog named Smoky. He was big and bushy and his name came from the color of his coat. The fence between our backyards was not significant so I was able to pet him frequently. He seemed to like me. Only later did my mother tell me that indeed Smoky was my first babysitter. On pleasant days, my mother put me in a carriage and parked it in the backyard near the fence. If anyone, other than my mother, approached the carriage, Smoky would bark furiously. Even my father could not go near the carriage without creating uproar.
Move ahead some 20-50 years. In my “spare” time, I was a volunteer at the local services for the blind. I made many friends there, some of whom were guide dogs. Then my youngest adopted a dog. I had a grand dog! He is a sweet loving being, but not extremely intelligent. Read on to find out why I mention his intelligence.
Well, now we are up to date.
Our book club is reading “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein (2008, NYT Bestseller). The book is really about resilience and survival in the face of tragedy. However, the story is told from the viewpoint of the family dog who wants more than anything to be reincarnated as a man -specifically a racing car driver (the profession of his ‘master’). This intelligent dog learned many things from TV, including the concept of reincarnation. It is an amusing coincidence that shortly before reading this book, I watched a movie “Dean Spanley” (2008, with Peter O’Toole). In this story of aging and grief, the “Dean” (local clergyman) turns out to have been the reincarnation of Peter O’Toole’s dog. I wonder if Garth Stein saw the movie.
Sometimes a pat on the head or a “good job” is all any of us need.