Why It's Good To Have a Dog
When I was 8, we found a large, white, friendly poodle in our front yard. He was delighted to see us and acted as if this was his home. I was thrilled. We didn’t have a dog, and in my 8-year-old thought process, this seemed like the perfect way to get one. But my mom explained that we had to advertise that we’d found him and give his owners a chance to claim him before we could. He slept in my room that night, and I kept my fingers crossed, but to no avail. The next day, his very happy owner came to get him. I felt so sad. I thought about him a lot, and it turns out that my mom did, too. A few months later, on my 9th birthday, she picked me up after school and with her she had a very wriggly, adorable standard poodle. Because my mom had stressed that he was a French poodle, I named him Antoine, but we called him Tony.
Dogs are here to be here—to love, play, run, sleep, enjoy a hearty bowl of kibble, and cuddle with us and each other on the couch.
Tony was the softest part of our family. He gave us something unconditional to love, and he did it with personality, affection, and gentle, undemanding attention. He connected us, in a way, and he just added something joyful to our lives. When I was away at camp the next summer, feeling very homesick, my mom even sent me postcards "from Tony." It helped me to stay attached to the parts of home that felt easy. Tony lived to be almost 15, long after I’d moved out on my own. What I learned from having him, though, stuck with me: It’s good to have a dog. My first partner and I had a standard poodle of our own—Jessee. She was a huge, black dog who was much less well-behaved than Tony, but we adored her.
After that, I didn’t have a dog for a long time. In fact, when I lived in an apartment that had a no-pets policy, I finally got some goldfish—Lucy and Ricky—just for the comfort of sharing my space with living things. I eventually snuck in a couple of kittens—Mike and Mamie—who entertained me endlessly for nearly 20 years. I loved them both dearly, but they were not dogs. I thought about getting a dog when I lived in a small house with a big yard, but it just felt like it would be too much work. Looking back, I realize it was a period of time in my life when I should have gotten one. Only a dog can remind you that, although life has its extremely serious moments, like when a squirrel is taunting you from the fence, it’s mostly to be enjoyed and relished.
In the last 20 years, I have been blessed with Jodi, the life partner I suppose I was preparing for forever. And with her, in addition to her 8 million other amazing traits, I got a person who understands why we all need a dog. We have had so many dogs together in this time, including a lot of puppies we helped bring into the world for Canine Companions for Independence. There’s no end to what those dogs can do to enrich, extend, and grace a person’s life, but regular old dogs are pretty good themselves. These days, we have Nugget and Remy, opposite ends of the dog-energy spectrum, but they both provide us with all of those extras that people need to feel grounded. They sit by us when we’re sad or upset, they entertain us endlessly with everything from crazy toy-chasing games to just the way they stare out the window at what appears to be nothing. When it comes to humans and dogs, there is no doubt in my mind which is the more evolved. Dogs are here to be here—to love, play, run, sleep, enjoy a hearty bowl of kibble, and cuddle with us and each other on the couch. They are models for me in how to live the life we’re given with all the gusto we can muster. I'm a slow learner, but they're helping me get there every day.