As always on Sunday, I like to find something to give praise for; something that is good and worthy in the world. Sometimes I choose an organisation such as the Kakamega Orphans care Centre or The Quaker Bolivia link. At other times I have praised wonderful people doing extraordinary things around us. This Sunday I would like to give praise to dogs. Not to any particular kind of dog, but all the fat, skinny, handsome, ugly, big , small, intelligent and stupid dogs that are all around us.
I have had a dog as a pet for my entire life, and the few months after the death from old age of each one, has been a time of intense sadness. With the passing of each dog, I have lost a friend.
And not just any friend. A friend who has been pleased to see me every day of his life. What an achievement that is; not for one day, in the lives of any of the dogs I have loved, have they not been pleased at my return. No matter how long I have been away, five minutes or the entire day, they have always waited for me, and always been happy to see me.
There are few moments as heart warming as the sight of a dog rushing to greet it´s owner, tail wagging into a blur of joy, just because his special person is back with him. This is the kind of unconditional love that we humans seldom manage to rise to.
My old dog, a big, lazy, loving Labrador died in September last year. At first it seemed inconceivable that he could be replaced….and my heart and my photo albums are full of him. There is scarcely one photo of my children growing up that did not include him. He left a space so big, that I was sure no other dog could fill it.
But as everyone who has ever lived with a dog knows, life is just not the same without a dog, and fate bought me to my new dog Reg in February this year. A friend had found him abandoned by the side of a road, miles from any houses. He was covered in ticks and looked pretty miserable. I must confess it was pity, and not love at first sight. I had been thinking of getting another labrador. This little puppy was a scrappy brown thing, of no particular breed, and carrying who knew what bugs. So I did what every dog lover on the planet knows is stupid, but does anyway; I took him in.
A trip to the vet confirmed that he was about seven weeks old, and had probably been badly treated. He disliked people, and was afraid of going into a house, even his own. We had to work very hard for his natural trust to return. But even as a puppy, he did what all dogs do. Once he had learned to trust me, he followed me around, he wagged his tail when he saw me. He wanted nothing more than to sit beside me, to be with me, to play with me.
And as he grew bigger, he learned to bark, and became a protector too. Now nearly a year later, Reg is my walking companion, he is the one who sits with me whilst I paint. He is the one who leans against me, and follows me around the house. He is the one who makes me feel safe at night.
He is the one who barks, if there are strange noises outside, and he is the one who curls up in his basket next to my bed to sleep.
What makes these animals such wonderful companions? They give us so much. They are even known to help sick children recover from illness more quickly and stroking them has been shown to reduce blood pressure. How does an animal, with only a limited communication system, and a love of chewing your shoes manage to take such a big part of your heart?
Here´s what I think: They love you for just what you are. They couldn´t care if your house was big or small. They don´t care if you are rich or poor. They will love you in your mansion, or love you while they sit beside you as you beg on the street. They suffer your absence, but they greet you with love. They want to be with you. They have only their love and loyalty and friendship to give, and they give it all. They live in the moment, and take every bit of joy that comes along, and in so doing help you to feel joy too.
I have never met a dog that did not have much to teach humans. We worry about the future, dwell on the past. We will sulk if someone we love is late home. We forgive, but not always. For a dog, there is nothing to forgive; you are back and he is happy. The day has started, and he is looking forward to it. Everything you do with him is his favorite thing.
We could all of us do with practising a few of these qualities ourselves.
Have a good Sunday everyone,