Silent devoted companionship

Living Hand to Paw by Bruce from San Francisco, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Living Hand to Paw by Bruce from San Francisco, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“I have found that when you are deeply troubled, there are things you get from the silent devoted companionship of a dog that you can get from no other source.”
— Doris Day

If you’ve ever had a canine friend, you know what Day meant.  There is something about the friendship between humans and dogs that defies comparison to anything else.

I’ve found that many of my fellow dog lovers are also fond of animals in general, but most of us will admit that our dogs fill a gap that can’t be filled by any other animal, or even any human. Their instinctive awareness of our moods, their unconditional devotion and their (mostly) silent presence in good times and bad quickly become part of our lives to the point that we can scarcely remember what our days were like without them.

Unlike a lot of people, dogs seem to be even more drawn to us in times when we are sad or distressed. They don’t offer solutions or advice, but they do communicate understanding and concern.  They stay beside us, letting us know that whatever else is going on, their loyalty is unchanged and unchanging.

Many of you know that our beloved dog Pasha died less than a year after Jeff’s diagnosis.  He had been with us more than sixteen years, and we still miss him.  When our lives settle down enough to ensure that we will have the time and stamina required, we plan to adopt another puppy.  Meanwhile, I enjoy other people’s dogs, who brighten my walks and make our neighborhoods fun places to be.

If you are “between dogs” as we are, or can’t have a pup for other reasons, I hope you are able to experience some of their benefits through friends and family whose households include a canine or two.  To those of you whose homes are blessed with the cheerful chores that go with having a resident pooch, please accept my thanks for the vicarious joy I get from seeing and hearing about your furry friends.

 

49 Comments

  1. Ann

    Julia, I too am a committed ‘dog person’. They add so much to our lives. When you and Jeff begin to consider a new canine friend, please consider an adult dog from a rescue organization. Our last three dogs have come to us that way. They were already house trained and through the puppy chewing phase. They had also learned basic commands such as sit and stay. Solomon and Bentley were each about 18 months old when they came to live with us nine years ago, O.D. was three years old. Prior to that we have a succession of puppies, always two at a time. They have all been wonderful.

    Thank you for putting our feelings into words🐕🐕

    • Ann, I agree that a rescue organization would be the first place to look. Before we got Pasha we visited several local shelters (this was in San Antonio) and none of them had a small dog, which we needed since we are a military family and had no idea how large our next home might be. We finally had to quit going to the shelters because we wanted to adopt every dog we saw and it broke our hearts not to take all of them home. I would happily skip the chewing phase, although I dearly love having a pup and watching it grow up. I am so glad you have had good experiences with your rescue dogs. Most of the people I know who adopted from rescue agencies were very happy with their new family members.

  2. Cherie

    Julia, thank you for reminding me of how much I loved my little Luci Lu. I miss her all the time. I have you and your family in my prayers each day. I hope Jeff and Matt are doing well and things are good for you. Thank you for helping me defeat despair. Love. Cherie

    • Hi Cherie, it is great to hear from you. You are never far from my thoughts. My friend (Jeff’s aunt) Gloria has an adorable pug named Lucy. She is very different from her brother Joe, a cute little mixed breed who looks a bit like a stuffed toy. I get to hear about their antics and that makes me smile. Missing our dogs is difficult, but I am so grateful for the “pawprints on the heart” they leave with us. Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

  3. Amen! My post today was inspired by animals and how we need to respect these beautiful creatures. I can’t tell you how much my dogs mean to me. I can’t imagine a world without these furry “angels”. Thanks for posting!

    • I am so happy you told me about your post, but so sad for the story it told. I hope your message reaches many people. I am posting a link to it here so others can read it. I imagine that most who read it will be 100% in agreement, but perhaps it will reach someone who typically might not take the time to care, and if so, maybe they will think on it and be more aware. https://365daystounstuck.wordpress.com/2015/03/12/compassion-a-lost-emotion/

  4. MaryAnn

    My niece, Stephanie, who you know from Lompoc; adds photos of animals to her FB page. She is an ardent animal lover (must be in her DNA. as her mom & sister share the passion).
    As she posts on FB, she states she will “need” this animal for her “farm”. I tease her that she already has so many scheduled that the imaginary farm is overrun! Delightful to view these cuties she finds.

    • Mary Ann, my brother Al and I were recently talking about our dream to have a big “farm” for homeless animals. Al hates to think of animals kept in shelters — he says it’s like “jail for dogs” and his own experiences in jail really made him sensitive to that. I think there must be many of us who have imaginary acres where animals are cared for and loved. And of course, far beyond that, I think of all the unwanted children who long for a loving home. If only all people and all animals could live free from cruelty and need! Perhaps that will be a reality we will experience in heaven. 😀 But as with all such hopes, of course we are happiest when we work toward making ourselves fit for such a paradise. Thanks for being with us!

  5. Julia,
    I have had two dogs in my life. There are challenges that occur as with any other member of one’s family. Yet in spite of it all, the benefit they bring to one’s life is immeasurable.
    -Alan

    • Alan, dogs are so like children in that regard; they require a lot of us at times, but the rewards are always far greater than the challenges. I’m so happy you have had the joy of close association with animal friends! I think those who never know that joy are really missing something. Thanks for being here.

  6. Julia, my question is often, “How does he know?” I guess we can call it “dog sense”! You have been with me regarding my loss of Salty, I’ve shared your love and loss of Pasha, you’ve been my cheerleader with Jack, and there’s Eric and Austin. It goes on and on, guess we could write a book. Walter sends love and “coo-coo’s” to you. 🐥

    • Sheila, I think it’s amazing that dogs can do so many things, including their skills at detecting seizures and cancer. Clearly, “dog sense” is valuable to humans in ways that go beyond our understanding. I’m so happy that animal lovers have been able to connect with each other online! I’ve enjoyed hearing about Salty, and now Jack, and also Walter and Mr. and Mrs. Clownfish! I guess we have almost written the equivalent of a book here on this blog. 😀 Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

      • Thank you for being so thoughtful to include the photo of Salty in his Willow Tree mode. Smiling, Sheila

        • Sheila, when I saw that photo of Salty, my heart just melted. What a sweetie!

    • Anon E. Moose

      Sheila, as always you are very perceptive. re: “Eric and Austin” – it took a while, but now it is truly Eric and Heath. As you say, I don’t know how he does it; but immediately when I listen to bad news on the phone, without me speaking, he whines and comes over to me. That sixth sense picks up on my distress – amazing.

      • Eric, I think most if not all dogs have that finely-tuned sensitivity. And it extends beyond just sadness. Once when I had pretty much lost all patience with Matt and was scolding him harshly I looked up at Pasha and he was looking at me intensely with an expression that was a combination of concern, alarm, and reprimand. (This was interesting, because often when I scolded the boys, he would literally stand beside me and bark along with me, which always amused us.) But in this case he was really disturbed. He might as well have actually said to me, “What is WRONG with you? You should be ASHAMED of yourself!” I must admit, I sort of did a double take. I realize people will accuse me of delusional anthropomorphism, but that dog knew I was crossing some sort of line and he was worried.

      • Eric, there was a time frame of mere months that our dogs died and we were dealing with the loss together. 😥 I’m sure for several months that Jack thought his name was “Salty-Jack” since that call happened so often! I enjoyed seeing the snow scenes (that Julia shared here recently) taken at your beautiful home. I’m sure Heath loves it! 🐾

        • Sheila, Heath DOES love the snow! (In fact, I think Heath loves life in general.) Here’s a photo of him in the snow that I just love. I think it was taken a couple of years ago, but I’m sure he’s still the same. He looks as if he is saying “Go IN? Already? Can’t we play a little while longer?” 🙂

  7. Amy

    Wrecker says, “Hi Julia!! I love you.” 🙂

    • Aaawwww, thank you sweet Wrecker. Tell your Mom to give you some ice from me! (Wrecker loves to chew on crushed ice, and I always give him some when I visit.)

  8. HarryS

    I love my Daisy girl cause she’s my Daisy Mae.
    She’s my Daisy Mae and she doesn’t even know what a Daisy Mae is.
    She’ll do most anything to keep me in style.
    Oh how I love my Daisy Mae.

    • Harry, that is so sweet. I don’t know why, but when you wrote “Daisy Mae” I pictured a dog that looks something like a Brittany. Thanks for posting your tribute to her!

  9. Julia…good morning. We adopted Charlie from Poteau Animal Shelter, two years ago. he is a while Maltese terrier. Keeps us entertained… 🙂 loves us unconditionally…I think.
    Its Charlie I’m holding in my picture…

    • Merry, Charlie is adorable! I’ll bet he has been good company for you. YES dogs are great sources of entertainment! Pasha used to get a bit disgusted when we would laugh at him, unless he was doing something intended to make us laugh. I’m so happy you were able to rescue Charlie from what Al calls the “jail for dogs.” 😀

  10. Jack

    Bo the German Shorthaired Pointer is up for anything I want to do. Walks, naps, digging, running, eating, whatever. He’s usually more up for what I want to do than I’m up for what I want to do. I can learn something from a dog like that!

    • Jack, isn’t that the truth! Malcolm Gladwell’s book What the Dog Saw has an interesting chapter on why dogs are our best friends. He talks with an expert who points out that no other animal is so interested in humans. Even monkeys and apes do not study us the way dogs do. The man said that dogs are “almost obsessed” with people, which is why they are so good as watchdogs and so loyal as companions. If only we could be as agreeable with each other’s moods as dogs always are with ours! Give Bo an extra treat for me! Thanks for telling us about him.

      • Jack

        I’ve read most of his stuff and really love his unique ability to make the mundane seem extraordinary (which of course it is!). In that same story, he talked about the Dog Whisperer saying there are three things a dog needs: exercise, discipline and affection. Bo’s life mission is to make sure he gets all three…he’s standing here watching me type this after our just completed 9.3 mile hike, and he’s ready to go again. No kidding, like right now.

        • Jack,this made me smile as I pictured Bo watching you and looking as if he’s thinking “hey, let’s go!” I’m glad you like Malcolm Gladwell. I think his writing is delightful. I’ve seen him described as a contrarian, which may be part of the reason why I like him; I appreciate anyone who can point out different angles of a topic without seeming obnoxious. I think what I like most about Gladwell is his unfailing respect, and sometimes even affection, for the people he writes about. In a world where polarized dialogue is often mean-spirited, it’s a comfort to read reasonable discussion.

  11. Good Sunday morning, Julia, Jeff, and Matt. It’s a beautiful morning here, all sights and sounds indicating a wonderful day. I’ve enjoyed reading the comments pertaining to the beloved pets of so many. 🐾 I had to laugh thinking of Pasha’s lecturing bark. That would have been the end of the fussing for me. 🐾 My granddaughter,Grayson, has a German Shorthaired Pointer, too. She sent me a video recently of Tilly TIPTOEING out of her bedroom, after she thought Grayson was asleep. I’ll try to send it to you….. short and funny. I so hope you’re having a wonderful weekend. 🙏

    • Sheila, I loved the video! I can’t seem to get the hang of how to embed it here; I’d have to upload it to YouTube and link to it. It reminded me of a time when Jeff and I happened upon some sort of bird dog being trained in the gardens of Colonial Williamsburg. It was quite impressive how stealthily and slowly that big dog (some sort of setter I think) was creeping along, always with at least one foot in the air. I think it’s so cute that Tilly knew to be quiet and not wake the baby.

      Today was a beautiful sunny day. I planted some bulbs this afternoon. 😀 A bit late, but hey, there was too much snow last time we were in Yorktown!

  12. Although we don’t have a dog ourselves, I have a jar of dog treats in our garage which I passed out liberally, with permission, to all who pass. I also get to walk once a week with my friend Karen and Dylan who knows me by name and gets excited when he hears it. There is nothing like it.

    The loss of a dog or cat is profound. You are wise, too, to wait till you can manage another. The shelters are filled with too many animals who’s companions didn’t know the work involved. xox

    • Alys, K told me quite some time ago about how you are the “treat hostess” for dogs in your neighborhood and I thought that was so nice. My heart breaks when I hear of an adoption (animal or human) that doesn’t work out, and the adoptee has to re-experience the pain of being without a family. I appreciate those breeders and shelters who are very careful when placing their animals. I loved our first two years with Pasha, but as with children, it was a LOT of work and demanded continual oversight. I am thankful that the first breeder I talked to encouraged us to wait until I was not working full time. As for now, we do not want to be having to board a dog or cat that we just adopted, which is always a risk with Jeff’s health situation that may require future hospitalizations. So for now, we are doing as you do and enjoying our friends’ dogs and cats. Kind of like being a grandparent in some ways…much of the fun without all the responsibilities!

      • Julia, you have a great perspective on all of it. It’s important to respect the animal, not just our own wants and desires. If my heart did all the talking we would have twenty cats. People are always asking and offering. Animals are like family members for us. That said, many a stray has crossed the threshold over the years. Slinky was a stray and Mouse is uncared for, so lives here instead. Smart kitty. We rescued Lindy from the Humane Society.

        Grandparenting is a great reward after all the years of care. I’m sorry Jeff’s health situation continues to be such a challenge. My heart goes out to you, today and always.

        • Alys, I’m the same way…I could easily turn into the “crazy cat lady” if I didn’t have a practical side. My sister unofficially adopted a cute little Boston Terrier in much the same way you have taken Mouse in. She could tell that the animal was being neglected by neighbors, and the more attention she showed her, the more she came around their home. She’s now there pretty much all the time, and apparently the neighbors are fine with that. Sad, but also happy. Thanks for your caring thoughts as Jeff continues to fight on with the cancer. Our grandson is a continual transfusion of joy when we most need it!

          • I’m so glad you have little G. to keep you smiling, Julia. Jeff is one of the strongest people I know of. I’m sure your love and strength help see him through.

  13. Michael

    I will have to check out the Gladwell book – with it’s chapter on human/ canine relations. Which one?
    What did you think of his take on student achievement and correlation to class size? He kind of debunked the whole thing and now I don’t know what to think. Recently, here in Wash. State we passed a lowered class size bill- costing millions- unfunded as of yet, but in the works- somehow. I voted against it as I don’t know how it can be funded. Shame on me. All my friends voted for it. Even my wife also.

    • The dog chapter is in the book What the Dog Saw, which is collection of essays on various topics. I very much appreciated what Gladwell wrote about class size (which I think was in David and Goliath?), because it matched my experiences as I remember them. As mentioned earlier, Gladwell is often described as a contrarian, so he is very good at helping us to take a second and third look at what passes for conventional wisdom. I do completely agree with his take on the ivy league vs. a good state school, and the less-than-ideal outcome for many students who make getting into Harvard or Yale their primary goal in life.

      What I value most about having gone to a private college is the very low student to faculty ratio, which I also had in library school at U of Hawaii, because the library school at that time was its own college with its own dean and faculty, despite being only about 100 students. In my senior seminar in college (1977-78) there were four students just meeting in the department chair’s office for class. Not quite the Oxford tutor system, but close. There is no way to fake or cheat in a situation like that. We seem to have it backwards when we emphasize small classes for kids, and then pack 250-300 students into a lecture hall for college-level classes. It’s the day care angle coming into the schooling picture. Small classes may be necessary for other reasons where kids are concerned, but I think they’re over-rated as a symbol of excellence in school evaluations. Statistically, throwing money at education never seems to solve achievement problems. Some of the highest per-pupil expenditures in the country are in the lowest-achieving school systems.

  14. Michael

    My younger son had a wonderful time at Ohio Wesleyan.- small liberal arts college in Columbus, with low student/ faculty ratio. The day care angle? Smaller is better?
    My younger son is working at a Guild school in NYC. He has the same group for four years. In the fourth year now- about 40 % of the original group remains. As far as education, I believe Malcolm X has a lot to teach. At one point, while in prison – a light went on and he realized he needed to get some education. And he did.

    • The day care angle I referred to is the fact that most school children have parents whose jobs require that they rely on the children being in school all day, and when there are snow days, sick days, vacations or other time off, it creates difficulty for working parents to find substitute care. Thus, whether intentional or not, the first half of a child’s school career serves a double purpose, and sometimes the need for day care comes before the need for education. Case in point: before No Child Left Behind rightly required children with disabilities to be included in school-wide achievement testing, special education was widely seen, even by many educators, as nothing but glorified day care (and you REALLY don’t want me to start ranting about that). On standardized testing days, Matt and his classmates were herded into the school gymnasium where they sat en masse and watched televisions (not even “educational” films) while being monitored by aides, while their teachers proctored exams for non-disabled students. For the 2-3 days the tests were being given, Matt received NO instruction whatsoever (in fact, I believe that sitting in front of a television in a noisy, crowded gym was actually detrimental) yet this was considered “instructional time” and taxpayer-funded as such. And the day care aspects of school are not limited to special education students. As long as education is seen as day care, it will be negatively influenced by this dual purpose. No easy answers to this dilemma, but for starters we should recognize that most of us see school as serving a combined purpose, and often the day care purpose trumps the educational purpose.

      There is much to admire about Malcolm X. He educated himself to rise above a dismal situation, and he was a lifelong learner, willing to change deeply-held convictions when it became apparent to him that his views were misguided. Ultimately he was a martyr to his own integrity, when the Nation of Islam assassinated him after he left their fold and denounced racism in favor of Sunni Islam. While Dr. King’s work was more exemplary in my eyes, for being based in nonviolence, patience and cooperation among all people (a goal Malcolm seemed to embrace more in the final years of his life), there is a place for the plain-spoken and controversial voice that Malcolm provided. His calls to self-reliance, moral purity and personal responsibility remain relevant today. It has been years since I read his autobiography (actually written by Alex Haley), but I found it to be an excellent work, one worth reading again, which I hope to do sometime.

  15. I’ve been a fan of Doris Day since I was little. As a young adult, I learned of her love and advocacy for animals and loved her even more. The photo you choose with her quote is just dear. I sure wish I had one like this with Buddy or Jasper, my first dog. Jasper was my devoted companion at the hardest part of my adult life, thru divorce and then, the loss of my dad. He seemed to understand when I was sad. I remember looking into his sweet big brown eyes and petting his head and ears and telling him how much he was loved. It didn’t matter that I didn’t hear it back, I felt his love with every stroke. I don’t know that I’ll be lucky enough to have another dog, but I sure take every opportunity possible to love up anyones pal I can. Don’t know if you follow ‘The Lonely Dogs’. Kathryn and I have actually had the opportunity to meet and we text often. She’s an Albertan living in Mexico. She and her boyfriend, rescue, nurture and re-home loving dogs. Kathryn posts beautiful photographs of her own pals at her Blog, you’ll love it there and feel her kind heart with every post.

    http://thelonelydogs.org/2015/03/20/with-a-loving-family-to-watch-over-him/

    • Thanks so much K, I started following that blog awhile back but then got totally behind on reading anyone’s blog, so I had not been there for awhile. I just popped over for another visit. What a wonderful idea to blog about these sweeties. I am so glad there are people such as Kathryn who live out the fantasy so many of us have about taking care of unwanted animals. It would be super hard to let go of them when they are adopted, but also quite joyous too, probably a lot like when our kids grow up and leave home. I really appreciate that she is willing to look past the challenges and love “the lonely dogs” who I am sure have much to offer in return. Thanks for sending this link!

      • Kathryn is an Angel. She loves them all so, so much. I wish everyone could meet her. Soft personality and big smile. We had lunch last summer when she came to visit her folks. As it turns out, we were more connected than I thought. Her mom and dad were best friends to a brother of a very good friend of mine. What in the world are the chances? Hey? ! Besides the obvious friends, I wonder if we know anyone in common? It’s a small world for sure.

        • Isn’t that amazing when these connections happen? She sounds like a wonderful person. I am so happy that she greets needy animals with “open mind, open heart, open door.”

  16. Michael

    I remember the Malcolm X book making such an effect on me.
    As you are an educator, I have to ask you about the teacher’s that were just sentenced in Atlanta. The whole thing seems such a tragedy. The words felon and teacher should not be used in the same sentence. In Seattle recently we have had some teachers refuse to give particular tests to students- can’t recall which ones exactly, but they received severe reprimands and a couple of the were suspended.

    • Michael, I am totally unfamiliar with the Atlanta teachers to whom you refer — I have not had much time for the computer lately, and since I never watch TV, I miss a lot of the news. I do agree that it’s a sad day when teachers are associated with felony crime.

  17. Michael

    What is the other Gladwell book- ” Blink.” Have not read that either. I like that moniker- contrarian.

    • Blink was the first of his books I read, and I instantly liked him (a “blink” decision I suppose). Though he often challenges conventional views of things, he is unfailingly respectful of his subjects, and remains upbeat in his appraisals. I never feel depressed or hopeless when I read his books, and often I come away with new insights and food for thought. If I could fill a fantasy dinner table with people I’d love to talk with, he would be high on my list.

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