Spending the last 11-ish years (and hopefully 11 more!) with my big, happy-as-a-clam Golden Retriever, Kasey has taught me a thing or two beyond the basics of owning a pet. As any fellow dog lover can attest to, owning a dog (or even simply being around them) can change a person in big ways. Therapy dogs are a perfect example; bringing our furry friends to visit sick patients in hospitals improves patients’ moods, outlooks, and oftentimes their will to fight for recovery- all from a simple visit. And though Kasey is much too big to jump up on hospital beds (though he would love to try!), I know that he has changed the lives of his five non-furry family members forever. Through all the ups and downs, Kasey has learned how to make us laugh out loud, how to open doors, how to guilt people into feeding him, and of course, how to love. And between all the learning he’s been doing, Kasey has managed to teach his human family a few good ‘tricks’ as well.
His favorite spot is the center of the kitchen floor. Why? He’ll never be alone there- and (bonus!) he’s first in line to snatch up crumbs and falling debris from the counters. We’ve tried to lure him to plop down just about anywhere else in the house, but that’s still his spot and he’s sticking to it. That being said, he’s had his tail or paws stepped on, tripped over, and even the occasional (accidental) case of someone walking right into him. He takes those risks when he chooses to be in everyone’s way, but he doesn’t seem to mind. Whenever any of those things happens, he simply looks at you the calm way only dogs can, and scurries over to receive the “I’m so sorry!” petting and kisses he has come to expect. In a half second flat, he’s back to snoozing and is 100% unaffected by your mishaps. You’ll never see him hold a grudge, stay (or, actually, be at all) upset or hurt, and you’ll certainly never have him guilt you about your old mistakes sometime down the road. He realizes things happen and forgives you without hesitation because he loves you (…and you feed him dinner every night). And you know what? I’ve never met anyone- human or dog- that’s happier.
2) Take Risks
He was maybe a year old, tops, at the time. We were all sitting on the deck eating dinner and he was lying at our feet, ever hopeful that one of our plates would fall. A few minutes went by and no one seemed to notice him creep away from us. Eventually spotting him at the edge of the yard, we all called for him to come back to us and away from the neighbor’s vegetable garden that he was inching dangerously close to. With one mischievous look, he turned and sprinted the rest of way to the garden and out of view. Not knowing where he would end up, I got up to chase after him. Before I could even get to the end of the yard, however, he was trotting back towards me triumphantly, a cucumber bigger than his head dangling out from either side of his mouth. It was so big and heavy that he was struggling to hold onto it, but not struggling enough to keep the spring from his step or to stop his vigorously wagging tail. The sight of our little guy carrying the giant, stolen goods happily back to the deck had us all laughing so hard, we could hardly reprimand him. Even that young, he knew what he wanted (and the risks of being scolded), but decided to go for it anyways. No more waiting around for things to fall into his lap (literally). Since then, his shoplifting habits have subsided, but Kasey still goes for what he wants. Whether it’s 3am playtime, one more lap around the neighborhood, or even an extra belly rub, you’ll never catch him sitting back and waiting for things to happen.
3) Know Where Home Is
Though it seems like old news to us, the sight of a big dog, leash in mouth, walking himself around the neighborhood surprises and amuses a lot of people. No one really knows how it started, but Kasey has a funny habit when we take him out. No matter how long the walk might be, as soon as we get back to our own block, he turns and looks at you earnestly, nudging the thick, plastic handle in your hand. “Cut it out, buddy,” you tell him, but he’s not deterred. This back and forth goes on for the length of several houses, until finally you give in. You stop, he sits, you hand him the leash (which he happily takes from you) and he’s on his way. You watch as his body wiggles as he trots off, one end of the leash clipped to his collar, the other held firmly in his mouth. This is his favorite part of the walk, and his excitement makes him walk faster than usual. “Hey, slow down,” you remind him, and he does- for about a minute. He knows the way, so you let him go and watch as the distance between you two grows. He passes house after house, trotting happily down the sidewalk by himself, and then waits patiently on the porch for you (still with leash in mouth). No matter where we take him, or how far he walks, he instinctively knows how to get back to his home; back to the place full of people he loves unconditionally, and who love him right back. So even if your “home” might not be on a quiet street, or perhaps not a place at all, know that there is always somewhere for you to belong.
-Kasey (and Stephanie)