In the B.D. era (“Before Dog”), I thought the bumper sticker “Dog is My Co-pilot” was really corny. Not that I preferred the original one (a different arrangement of the letters in “dog”), but I just didn’t understand the whole canine-adoration thing.
Okay, right now I can hear laughter from my fellow community members, who see me driving around town with an 85-pound Golden-doodle (half Golden Retriever, half Standard Poodle). He rides shot-gun while my kids are at school and waits in the driver’s seat while I’m in the grocery store or Starbucks.
This was especially striking when I drove a Smart Car; I often returned to that little blue machine to see strangers taking photos of Bauer behind the wheel.
In our three years together, Bauer has become my best friend and constant companion. He sleeps on a large pillow in the bedroom, and when my husband is away (which is often, as he’s a management consultant), I am comforted by the rhythmic breathing of another being.
During the day, Bauer spends most of his time in my home office, where I work as a writer and editor. He has a special place under my desk, in a corner, and literally warms my feet for hours on end. I also teach part-time at a private academy, and while he doesn’t go to school with me, he has made a few very welcome appearances there.
When I’m out and about, Bauer is always by my side—for walks in the park, drives to the store and even trips to Whistler.
Two weeks ago, while the kids vacationed with their grandparents and cousins, Bauer traveled to British Columbia with me. (My husband prefers to use his kid-free time off fly-fishing with buddies in Montana.) Sometime during the week, I realized that because of Bauer, I never felt lonely or afraid.
So, in this post I’ll permit myself to appreciate all that he provides:
Constant Companionship – My teens have great friends and full schedules, so they rarely prioritize time with me. My dog, however, is always game. No matter what he’s doing, he will drop everything to join me if I just ask, “Car?” “Walk?” or “Beach?” (Of course, the range of what he “drops” is quite limited: napping, eating, chasing flies or trying to engage the cat in play.) So, when I’m “alone,” I never feel lonely.
Fresh Air – I love exercise and really don’t need motivation for trips to the gym. Spending time outside in the fall, winter and spring is another story, though; you may have heard that Seattle experiences constant drizzle and low clouds from November through March. Because Bauer needs long walks and loves seeing his “friends,” I force myself to don the rain boots and slicker and head to the dog park several times a week. Yesterday, it was uncharacteristically hot in Seattle, and I would have loved to “chill” in our basement, reading or watching a movie. Instead, I took Bauer down to the beach, so he could cool off and tire out retrieving balls from the lake.
Protection – Although he’s quite friendly and views every human, dog and squirrel he encounters as a potential pal, I do believe that Bauer would protect me against harm. He has alerted us to cars in the driveway in the middle of the night (fortunately, that was just our college-age son), raccoons on the porch (they love cat food) and bears near our condo in Whistler. In fact, he tracks bear scents with his nose to the ground; recently, Bauer was obviously trailing a bear when a passerby said we had missed a sighting by about 30 seconds. When I’m walking with Bauer through the woods, I appreciate this advance warning.
Popularity by Association – Having a cute, friendly dog provides me with a certain social status. In the dog park, other canines run up to greet him and their “parents” always stop to chat with me. Friends call for dog walks because their dogs like mine. In our local dog park and anywhere in Whistler, strangers start conversations because of Bauer. Many encounters never would have occurred without my canine companion:
– Last summer, a young woman who appeared to visiting British Columbia with her parents, approached me while pointing to her camera. I assumed she wanted me to take a photo of her family. Instead, she explained in very broken English that her mom wanted to pose with my dog.
– Just a few days later, when my daughter was checking out a playground, another foreign lady signaled that she wanted a picture of her toddler sitting on Bauer. Of course, he was happy to comply.
– A woman with a wheelchair-bound son struck up a conversation one day, saying she had watched me and Bauer outside the coffee shop several days in a row. After pumping me for information about the Golden-doodle breed, she said, “I have decided that a dog like yours would make a great companion for my son.”
– During my recent trip, I was walking Bauer home from Whistler Village when a woman passing by on a bicycle hollered, “Hey, is that the dog I saw swimming yesterday?” I replied that yes, I had been tossing a ball off the dock at Rainbow Park. “Oh, I took a brilliant photo of him in the water, with a tennis ball in his mouth. Hey, Troy, look – it’s that dog!”
Right about now, some of you may be thinking, “That woman needs more friends.” In truth, I am blessed with many good friends. However, perhaps I need better ones. Or, maybe we should all give ourselves permission to love and value our four-legged friends.
A while back, Carol wrote about her dog, and that post resonated with moms who agree that dogs can be easier to manage and more pleasant than teenagers. I recently wrote about the similarities between raising boys and dogs. However, my emotions run deeper than that. I now realize that those of us with loyal dogs in our lives are truly fortunate.
– Linda Williams Rorem, 13 Aug. 2012
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