Man’s Best Friend

Unaware, at first, that my glance was focused upon him, he laid resting, his chin whiskers white with age.  His once mischievously sparkling eyes turned slowly up to meet mine, their expression of ever-ready enthusiasm for a lively romp together now replaced by one of weariness that comes with age.  It was as if I could read his thoughts, for his eyes conveyed an unquestionable sense of peace and contentment.

His life, having been a very full and happy one, seemed to leave him with nothing more to be desired.  It seemed that his only wish now was to be with those of us who have always loved and cared for him and that he be permitted his well-deserved periods of quiet solitude and understanding – understanding of his gradually increasing ‘grouchy moods’ when Old Father Time has so unfairly nagged at his once ‘patient to a fault’ good nature.

My sentimental thoughts were only momentarily interrupted when he arose slowly and a bit shakily to curl up in the chair, beside me.  It occurred to me that he oftentimes repeats that same gesture of affection now, seeming to prefer our quiet companionship and restfulness to his previous younger days of neverending, boundless energy.

I gently petted his soft fur, and as he slowly drifted to sleep, my thoughts wandered back to those days long ago . . . . .

We had decided that our three-year-old son might enjoy a pet of his own to love and help care for.  So we had traveled to a kennel where we found numerous dogs of all sizes, shapes and colors.  They all began jumping up anxiously against the fences that held them inside their orphanage-like home.  It was as if they were each competing with the others for our attention.  They seemed to know why we’d come and each appeared to be desperately hoping that we would choose him or her.  We petted many little wet noses and soft paws as they groped out to touch us.

Suddenly, our attention was caught by a little black dog (a Schipperke) who was huddled alone in a corner at the far end of a kennel.  He wasn’t sharing in the other’s enthusiastic attempts at performing for us.  Moving closer we could see that his coat lacked the bright sheen of those of the other dogs, but, instead, appeared to be dull and snarled.

Noticing our concern, the kennel owner explained that he’d been a sort of misfit since his birth and that even at six months of age the other dos had refused to accept  him.  It was evident to us that he’d given up hope of ever gaining the acceptence of the other dogs.  With the hope that we might win his trust, we decided to adopt the lonely little outcast huddled there in silent solitude.

Realizing that he’s never before had any real contact with humans, we expected that it would take time to win his trust and love.  To our delight we were to discover just one of the many wonders of the nature of “man’s best friend.”  He seemed almost immediately to sense our desire to give him a whole new kind of homelife – one filled with love and trust.

In return, he assumed his role as an affectionate pet, court jester and trustworthy watchdog.  We marveled again and again at his amazing transformation from daytime loving, energetic playmate into our nocturnal sharp-eared watchdog whose ferocious sounding bark would have frightened away even the most brave of nightly intruders.

As time passed we watched his puppyhood with all of it’s playful antics, evolve into a more mature personality.  However, he never really outgrew many of his puppy characteristics: his knack for becoming stranded in snowdrifts (because of his small size); his shaking like a leaf with fear during thunderstorms and his refusal to eat or drink when it became necessary to board him if we vacationed without him.  Like many dogs, he’s never outgrown his dislike of baths.  He never fails to saturate all of us by briskly shaking off the excess moisture afterward before making his ritualistic ‘mad dash’ down the stairs and out the back door to seek refuge inside our fenced-in yard.

Then, of course, there were his reigning days of the reincarnated ‘Don Juan’ syndrome.  After careful consideration we had a long talk with our neighborhood veterinarian whose strong recommendation was that we’d best put an end to his seemingly incurable roving ways.  Upon following his advice we discovered that the very minor surgery involved served to domesticate our pet even more and saved the neighborhood female dog owners numerous headaches.

There was, of course, the time just before his surgery that he disappeared from our yard.  We were beside ourselves with worry and sadness.  Three days later as I watched out the front window, I saw a small black dog who looked exactly like Skipper!  I found out who the people were that lived in that house and I made a phone call to them.  The dad explained to me that they’d had the dog for a few days now and his children had fallen in love with him.  The man at the other end of the line was not anxious to consider parting with the dog.  So, in desperation, I asked him to put the phone to the dog’s ear.  There was a silence at the other end of the line.  Needless to say, I could only imagine how crazy the man must have thought me to be.  So, I said, “If the dog doesn’t respond to my voice, he’s yours.  But! If he does respond, you’ll have to admit that he belongs to me!  “Okay . . . ” I heard the man say at the other end of the line.  I shouted loudly, “Skipper!  Hey Skipper!  Come here Skipper!”  The dog responded by barking up a storm.  The man returned the handset to his ear and in a defeated sounding voice tone, said, “Well, I guess I can’t deny that he sure knows you!”  Within minutes I was across the street rescuing our precious dog.

Looking down at him now, so many years later, I found myself wondering whether there is any being who is so loyal, loving and trusting.  I realized that he had, indeed, become one of the family right from that first day seven years ago.   It wasn’t difficult just then to fully understand why his kind has, for centuries, been labeled “Man’s Best Friend.”  For whatever trials or tribulations are set before him, he repeatedly gives his master his love without question . . . without expecting anything in return.

Once again, my reminiscing was interrupted as I felt him nuzzle closer.  As I reached down to pet him gently, he raised his head with chin whiskers white as snow and his eyes looked up at me as if to say, “You’ve always understood.”

(Copyright 2014 by JC Fredlund) Copyright 1974 – 2014 by JC Fredlund (JC Eberhart, Past Pen Name): ©JC Fredlund and JC Fredlund’s Artistry Blog, 1974 – 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to JC Fredlund and the link to http://www.JCFredlund.wordpress.com blog is included with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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