Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dogs of Christmas Past

As I sit here with pen in hand, I look around my living room. There is one theme that runs in my house; it’s my love for dogs. But the love for canines didn’t start with me. I come from a long line of dog lovers. I look at the portraits of my past and present family members which hang on my wall and grace my mantle. In almost every one the human is pictured with their dog.

I see the black & white photos of my grandparents and their beloved dogs, Petunia and Coco. My dad pictured as a boy with a collie mix on my great grandfather’s farm in Indiana. My mom, pictured with her Pomeranian mix, Ginger whose death she mourned for months.

These dogs are just as much a part of my family history as my relatives who cradle them. As I look at these pictures, I wonder if I would have become the same person if dogs were never in my life. Dogs teach us so much about the spectrum of humanity; empathy, patience, laughter, and above all unconditional love.

I was 5 years old when I started my love affair with dogs. Tippy was a spaniel mix that my dad dug out of a ‘free to good home’ cardboard box. I don’t remember the housebreaking, and crates were non existent back then. There were no puppy kindergarten classes, or puppy play groups. And, I hate to say it, but Tippy was never neutered. But somehow, in spite of these’ handicaps’, Tippy grew to be tolerant of sharing a rawhide and an occasional piece of kibble with curious child. He patiently let me dress him up in hats and sunglasses and sighed heavily when I would parade him around in front of my friends. He new many complex tricks, although no one ever remembers teaching him any. He never walked well on a leash, and sometimes ran away, only to come home the next morning hungry and tired. My parents jokingly referred to Tippy as my ‘brother’. But he was more than that. As a child, he was my rock during my parents divorce and I cried many teenage tears into his silky black hair. I still get a little weepy when I think about leaving home the summer I turned 18, and I will always remember the moment I said goodbye to him, knowing it would be the last time. He died that fall, and the ripe age 13 years.

Many more dogs graced my adult life. Nushka, my malamute, gave me strength, independence and encouraged my love for the outdoors. Doopie, my fearful rescue husky, taught me that patience was needed to achieve the reward of bringing light into the eyes of a scared dog.

My greatest teachers, healers, motivators & protectors were not human, but canine. Looking at the pictures of dogs whose lives have faded, I am proud to be a part of a human family who so graciously shared their lives with dogs. This holiday season, I will not only enjoy my dogs of Christmas present, but will honor the ones of Christmas past.

1 comment:

Holly said...

What a lovely tribute to the canines who blessed your life. I know I would be "lost" without my beloved furry family members.