If I had to make a top 10 list of my favorite things in life, my dogs would be on it. I know I should feel bad that one of my siblings wouldn’t make the list. I also know I should feel fiercely ashamed that Diet Coke would make the list before the aforementioned sibling, but here’s the thing: Diet Coke’s not crazy. I can’t really say that about my oldest brother.
But enough of my family drama. Let’s get back to dogs — wonderful, amazing dogs. I’m one of those people who if forced to choose would more often than not take the company of canines over people. They’re great listeners, nonjudgmental and don’t talk back. Does it get any better than that? I mean, really, who cares how much they shed?
Recently, one of our beloved dogs passed away. Usually when we lose a dog, our family tradition has been to have a period of mourning and reflection before getting a new addition to the family. Last month, my husband freelanced on that rule and while I was out of town adopted a dog. He assured me that “Tahoe,” a rescue beagle, was as mellow as they come. In fact, he described the dog as “totally chill.”
This stumped me a little because although I don’t know a lot about beagles I was pretty sure the word chill wasn’t an accurate description of the breed. When I got home, Tahoe was indeed a most mellow fellow. We found out that next day this was because he had pneumonia. After a hefty vet bill and one week of recovery, Tahoe’s personality was in full bloom.
The dog is gregarious and has never met a stranger. He also believes every animate and inanimate object adores him. A walk with Tahoe through the neighborhood feels like he’s campaigning for public office. I’m certain he could get out of the vote for, at the very least, county commissioner. Due to his exuberant personality I thought he might enjoy the new Leawoof Dog Park.
I took my son with me as backup in case Tahoe, with acres to roam went, I don’t know, full wolf or something. Once we got inside the park and it was time to let our dog loose I felt like the theme song from “Born Free” should be playing.
For those you who not familiar with this almost 50-year-old movie let me tell you all you need to know. A couple raises an abandoned lion cub and then when it grows up they have to release it back into the wild and many tears are shed as Born free, as free as the wind blows, As free as the grass grows, Born free to follow your heart plays over a montage of the lion bounding off into the open African savannah. (As a child of the ‘70s, it doesn’t have the full boo-hoo quality of, say, “Brian’s Song,” but it’s close.)
As soon as Tahoe is leash-less he takes off like a Wal-mart shopper first in the door at a Black Friday sale. He even gives us an over the shoulder “so long suckers” look. I feared he was a goner. I knew using simple math that it would quite a feat for him to jump the fence, but never being one to underestimate the brilliance and determination of the canine spirit, I didn’t rule out some sort of elaborate tunnel system dug by the dogs, in shifts, when their humans weren’t looking.
I frantically tell my son to start running after Tahoe. He gives me the teenage “no way” eye roll. I quickly explain that I almost certain the dog is going AWOL. He shakes his head at me and matter of factly says, “Relax, no one, most especially our dogs, would ever want to leave you.”
I’m irrationally excited by this statement. It might be, perhaps, the best compliment I’ve ever received in my life, but before I can delve deeper for clarification and a chance to extrapolate on the praise — I mean it’s not like I get many accolades from my teenagers; I think the last nice thing my kids said to me was back in 2013 and it was that “dinner was decent” — Tahoe comes barreling back towards us like a soccer ball kicked by the love child of Thor and She-Hulk.
My son smirks at me and simply says, “See, I told you he’d come right back.”
“Because I’m awesome right?”
“Well, maybe and it doesn’t hurt that you feed him steak.”
Not quite the continued declaration of my greatness I was looking for, but I’ll take it. If I want real devotion, there’s always the superior mammal to turn to — a dog.