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Dogs, one of God's wonderful gifts

By: Carl Langley
EdgefieldDaily.com Guest Columnist

web posted March 12, 2007

Below: "Lucy" delivering the news
GUEST COLUMN – They live in a world filled with boundless joy that comes from their love for the ones who care for them, and they are privy to secrets that not even the greatest researchers have been able to diagnosis with any great degree of confidence.

All they ask of those who share their lives is a friendly word, an affectionate stroking of their bodies, food, water and shelter, preferably a comfortable place at your feet and sometimes in your lap.

I am writing today about dogs, the wonderful gifts that God has bestowed upon us and who have shared the lives of men, women and children for thousands of years.

No one knows when man and dog became so closely intertwined, but researchers and explorers believe that it is a time span that goes back for at least 50,000 years.

The first dog probably was much like the wolf that we know today, but no one is certain about that. I hardly can imagine the little Chihuahua or Yorkie that scampers about on the living room floor as a descendant of the wolf.

When I was a child my family always had dogs. They did not share our homes, but their beds were close to the house and each morning, rain or shine, hot or cold they were at the door to greet us when we emerged and prepared for school or work.

In the early years of my adulthood, when I married, became a father and worked at my job with a newspaper I didn’t have the company of a dog except on a few occasions. None in those years shared my home, and today I sorely regret that lapse, that awful gap in love and affection. I didn’t realize it at the time but a dog will love you when no one else will.

I have worked hard for the past 20 years making up for what I missed all those years, and over the ;ast two decades I have shared my life with eight dogs. Four of them have passed on and four remain and they all have brought me the greatest pleasure.

In recent years I have grown fonder and fonder of my dogs, and they have returned that affection many times over. I know this is true because each time I leave the house and return I come back to shrieks of joy as they quarrel among themselves to be the first to welcome me back.

The shrieking begins long before I enter the driveway. Their hearing is so acute they can sense the humming of my car’s engine a block or two away. They also can detect the coming of the post carrier’s little Jeep, the FedEx or UPS vans and visitors who have been here before.

Within the past few months I have read on several occasions about dogs saving children, saving their owners, saving strangers. A most recent case occurred only a few weeks back when four mountain hikers were stranded for the night on a snowy peak in an ice storm and a big black dog took turns lying across the bodies of the hikers to keep them warm. A forest ranger said the dog’s care helped them survive.

I once wrote about a big yellow dog in a Georgia town that waited on his owner’s front lawn each day. He always showed up on the lawn shortly before the school bus arrived. A little boy would get out of the bus and he and the dog would romp and play before going into the house. It was a sight that still brings tears to my eyes.

My dogs Brandy, Prissy, Strom and Holly have passed away and their ashes rest in urns just outside my bedroom. Their portraits and pictures adorn the walls of my home and I look at them each day and tell them of my love. My remaining four are Lightning, Lucy, Scooter and Winston and they all come by for hugs just before bedtime.

They are all rescued dogs and they all have their own stories to tell. Lightning is the oldest of the four and she has taught the others the little things to do that bring me pleasure, and she corrected them when they were puppies if they got into mischief or became too boisterous. They took their lessons well.

Lightning was the first of my dogs to fetch the paper each morning, and as arthritis began to slow her down she turned the chore over to Scooter and Lucy. Scooter soon turned the entire task over to Lucy because he had rather chase squirrels than squabble over whose turn it was to bring the paper in. Fetching the paper always brought a treat for payment and Scooter didn’t forget that even though Lucy brought the paper.

Lucy is a marvel of survival. When she was only six weeks old someone stuffed her in a big country mail box on a hot August day. By some stroke of luck the owner of the mail box checked it before leaving for work that morning and was surprised to see a tiny puppy peering at her from the blackness of the mail box.

I think of that often and how Lucy could have roasted inside the mail box. I think God was looking after her that morning, and he certainly was looking after me and Betty because we found her at a Molly’s Militia adoption at a pet supply house. She was sitting quietly in the lap of her rescuer. We fell in love with her and brought her home.

Over the years since that wonderful day Lucy has repaid us many times over and it is fun to watch her bring in the paper each morning. We get two papers at my house and she carefully stacks one atop the other before bringing them in the house. It is comical to see her bring in two Sunday papers, stacking one atop the other and struggling to get them into the house.

One Sunday morning, a week before the Masters Golf Tournament, both papers were bulging with special sections and seemed to weigh five pounds. I watched as Lucy struggled to get them balanced. After several minutes she gave up. Then, I watched in amazement as she picked up one paper, hid it in a bank of ivy to keep the other dogs from finding it, then brought the second paper to the house. She turned it over to me, then dashed back to get the one she had hidden.

On the few times she misbehaved and I scolded her she would rush through the house, find Betty and leap into her arms or lap. She knew no one would dare punish her once she took refuge with Betty. She was like a small child seeking shelter behind mama’s skirts.

I could go on and on about these joyful moments but space constraints prohibit it. All I can say is my pets have made my life complete and without them my days would be filled with a lot of emptiness.

I leave you with the recall of a comment once made by President Harry Truman. One morning one of his aides complained that no one in Washington liked him. Truman told the poor fellow that he was living in a city that yielded little affection to anyone, then the president remarked, “If you want someone in Washington love you, get yourself a dog.”

Truman was one of the greatest presidents of my lifetime, and he also was a very wise man. If you want something that will really love you, whether you are young and vibrant, old and gray, rich or poor, get yourself a dog. You will never regret it.


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