Thursday, November 16, 2017

My dog is one of the smartest people I know.

This is what I came home to several days ago. Along with the trash that was scattered on the floor.

This is Fred, half Beagle and half Basset Hound. He also knows he’s not supposed to be on that couch. That’s why he’s trying to hide. Fred came into our lives a few years ago, when we adopted him from a local shelter. He’s not perfect. He gets into the trash. He’ll occasionally poop or pee on the basement floor when Cindy and I are at work.

Fred has a disability, but it doesn’t hold him back. His right from paw turns at about a 90 degree angle from his body, but it doesn’t hold him back. He can still run like the wind. He sometimes has the grace of a bull in a china shop. Fred has taught me many things.

He has taught me about unconditional love. Fred accepts his humans for who and what we are. He’s always happy to see us. When we have to scold him he’ll sulk for a while, but he quickly recovers and he’s soon ready to play again.

Fred goes to the dog park with Cindy on a daily basis, weather permitting. He gets to run and play with his friends, and the humans get to commune with each other for a while. The joy on his face is unbounded as he runs and he bothers his friend Jim for treats.

Fred has taught me to be comfortable interacting with strangers. I’m much more comfortable these days, starting up conversations with people II meet while standing in line somewhere. Sometimes it’s worth the effort, sometimes it’s not – when that’s the case, it’s easy to smile and wish the person well, turn around, and walk off.

He’s taught me to be more appreciative of the little things in life. Fred lives for his trips to the dog park, or a walk around the block. Ear rubs are one of his favorite things, along with the occasional French fry that’s tossed his way. He catches them now; for the longest time he’d let them bounce off his face. Practice makes perfect.

My mom always told me to go with my first hunch in any situation, and Fred has perfected that lesson. Most times, he’ll greet a stranger with a wagging tail and a lolling tongue, wanting to say ‘hi, ya wanna play?’. Other times, when someone unknown approaches, Fred will adopt a place between either my wife or me, sitting quietly on his haunches, never taking his eyes off the person who has just walked up.

On the days that I stay home sick, with another bout of pancreatitis, Fred never leaves the vicinity of wherever I may be. He hovers near the couch or the bed, and he’ll occasionally get up and give my hand or my leg a quick rub with his nose. Sometimes I pretend I don’t notice. He’ll look at me for a moment, then he’ll quietly go back to his spot and lie down.

Fred's about 10 years old now, so he's started to slow down a bit. I'm pushing 60 now, and I've slowed down a bit over the past few years.

I’ve learned a lot from that dog.

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