Four-Legged Friends: He Ain’t Heavy

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I have turned down so many after-work invitations, I no longer get them. It’s not that I’m antisocial; it’s that I have a dog at home who needs me. I ask a lot of my dog, Buck. I expect him to relieve himself outside and only outside. I expect him to not chase or otherwise bother my elderly cat. I expect him to not eat anything that isn’t his food. I expect him to stay home, quietly, all day while I work. And he does all these things for me. In return, I provide him with clean water, healthy food, medical care, and my attention when I’m not at work earning money so I can afford to have a home and a car and pets.

I don’t feel guilty for expecting him to stay home all day. Not a bit. There was no such thing as a dog walker or a doggy day care when I was a kid. These services are thriving today, and I suppose if I had an extra couple of thousand dollars (which is what a daily dog walking service would add up to over the course of a year), I might pay someone else to walk my dog. But I don’t. And the truth is, unless your dog has some sort of medical condition, you don’t need a dog walker because your dog, if properly exercised in the morning and paid attention to in the evening, will be quite content to sleep all day while you’re out working so that you can afford to have the dog in the first place.

What would make me feel guilty is if I worked all day, came home, rushed the dog through a quick potty break, threw some food at him, and went back out to socialize. There is nothing wrong with wanting a social life. I get that. But your dog doesn’t. I’m surrounded by other people all day, Monday through Friday. Buck has me. There is no one else to pay attention to him. If I wanted the kind of life that included after-dinner beers with friends, or going to the gym and the juice bar every night, I would not consider myself an appropriate candidate for a dog.

Dogs are very social creatures. That’s just their nature. While most of them can do just fine as only pets, they both desire and deserve your companionship and not just the minimum required care. If you want to be free to do as you please any time night or day, you’re probably not going to make a good canine caretaker. Oh sure, you can keep a dog alive, but a dog is not a houseplant, and alive is not the same as thriving.

When I think about how I have, by choice, structured my daily routine around having a dog, the song lyrics, “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother” come to mind. No, I don’t think of Buck as my brother, or my child, but it’s not a burden to me that he is waiting at home for me. Honestly, I cannot imagine coming home to an empty home day after day. I tried it when my first greyhound died. I was going to wait until I retired and bought a house with a yard before I got another dog because the daily walking can be difficult for me. I lasted a week! Without a dog, there was an emptiness in my soul.

Buck was a bit of a project dog. When I got him, he was very shy and not at all sure he wanted to be my dog — but he had been in the adoption kennel for nine months and I thought he deserved a chance. Dogs are incredibly resilient animals. Take Buck — born in Florida, raised in a kennel, sent to live at a racetrack, retired almost immediately, sent off to one adoption group, then shipped from Florida to Massachusetts, and then to me — he was just a few months over three years old when I got him. Despite all those changes in his short life, it only took a few weeks for the two of us to become the best of friends.

The picture of contentment

The picture of contentment

When I get home, what greets me is a gorgeous blonde with a madly wagging tail and big amber eyes shining with joy. That’s not a burden, that’s a blessing. I know a lot of people just don’t get it — someone who would rather go home and walk their dog than go to a movie or for a bite to eat. Fortunately there is a huge community of like-minded souls that I’ve connected with through the magic of the internet. I have friends all over the world that I interact with on a daily basis, all because of our shared love of dogs. We share stories and photos, tips on medical care and dietary needs, and we also raise money every year for a cause near and dear to the hearts of all greyhound lovers — canine cancer research.

I sat at home last night, thinking about what else to write about Buck. How does one express how much a canine companion adds to one’s life? As I pondered, he was on the couch next to me, on his back, four paws in the air, with his head on my leg and his mouth open. Hardly a picture of grace and elegance.

He asks very little of me. He never lies to me. He never steals from me. He doesn’t ask to borrow money. He’ll never be disappointed in me. He thinks I look just fine when I first wake up. He doesn’t try to talk to me before I’ve had my coffee. And he doesn’t ever change the channel when I’m watching golf. Man’s best friend, indeed. All of that in exchange for food, water, and shelter. That’s quite a bargain.

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avatar Posted by on Sep 17 2015. Filed under Featured Content, Opinion.
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