Gone to the dogs: Animals provide lots of love

If you’re a dog lover, you will love this column. If you’re not, read it anyway. By the end, you might change your mind.

During my lifetime, there has been a period of only about five years when there has not been a dog around. Growing up on a farm, it was a given that a dog was a member of the family. The first one I remember we named Coal. He was a border collie mix and the greatest of companions for us two sisters in everything we did, not to mention a natural cow herder.

Our second one was Duke, a German shepherd given to us by friends who lived in Baltimore and really had no place for him. Did he ever love the acres we had so that he could run and finally be a dog.

Before I married, my husband-to-be bought me a collie and Norwegian mix that we named Smokey. We had her for the first 15 years of our married life together. She was the best friend to us both, as well as to my husband’s family on whose property we lived. It was a sad, sad day when we had to put her down.

Shortly after we moved into our new home in 1984, my sister, Nancy, brought Annie to us. She was a Pomeranian mix, and all nine pounds of her was pure heart. There was hardly a time when the car left the house that she was not in it. She loved to ride – anywhere – and was the center of attention when anyone saw her resting in my arms, inspecting the outside world through the open car window.

I trained her from a puppy to wander our acre of ground and never leave its boundaries. She never failed to listen when I warned her not to cross over the property lines. She was all black, with some brown markings, and had a face that would melt your heart. Everyone loved Annie.

As life would have it, we, of course, lost her, too, after she became seriously ill when she was 15. But that’s a long life for a dog – just not long enough for those of us who love her. We buried her under the apple tree in the backyard, her favorite place to rest in the shade during the summer.

After Annie, my husband said no more. He couldn’t take the heartache of losing a third best friend. So, until his death seven years ago, there was no dog in the house. Then, two weeks after he passed, a friend, Marty Stone, came to my door carrying another little black dog. She was a Pomeranian and Lhasa mix and about two years old. Although I was not yet ready for a dog, she immediately won my heart. And, since I had had so many heavenly and worldly angels about me during my husband’s passing, that’s the name I christened her with – Angel.

Angel had a difficult start after she arrived in Gilman. In fact, the veterinarian told me to expect her to die. She came with the parvo virus, whip worm, kennel cough and malnutrition. The dog warden had found her walking along a back road with a puppy. That story nearly broke my heart.

But the vet and her office staff babied Angel, nursed her and loved her into good health. There were some additional dark moments of serious doubt after I brought her home, but God must have decided we needed each other because she slowly improved and pulled through.

She has been my sole companion for the seven years since my husband passed away. Without her, I absolutely would have died from loneliness. It still amazes me how much a human and dog can be alike. She and I love the outdoors. In the summer, we only need to be in the house to get a drink of water and sleep! Otherwise, she beats me to the back door every time, leaping out on the porch, looking for the next chore to be done.

She is my ears when someone arrives, barking to let me know the doorbell has rung. And then do they ever get a barking – a truly happy welcome! She loves company as much as I do. There’s that likeness again.

She nurses me when I am sick, lies quietly in my lap when all I need is a little comfort, encourages me with her big brown eyes, and loves me with all my faults. I have often said, if we humans could love as dogs do, what a different world this would be.

I know that she always is there, unlike some people who tend to disappoint us. There is a loyalty and devotion that comes from a dog that cannot be matched. It seems they can look right into your soul and heal all its hurts, and bring unbounding joy when that is what is needed. No doubt they are God’s creation and a life’s blessing that is difficult to put into words.

So, if you are a dog lover like I am, you know exactly what I am talking about. A dog will steal your heart, but you won’t ever be sorry because he gives you his in return.

If you have never had a dog, I can tell you that you have missed one of life’s finest gifts. You might want to reconsider and go visit the animal shelter to see what they have to offer. There’s lots of love out there, something we humans need every day, whether we realize it or not.