Our rescue dog Albie has been with us a little more than a year now.
The shy, tentative creature who’d been found wandering alone in central Louisiana, and who was just days away from being euthanized in a kill shelter, is now very much at home.
The dog that didn’t bark for weeks now uses his “outdoor voice” to engage other dogs we meet on our walks. The dog who wouldn’t even venture upstairs now makes himself at home in our bed. The dog that waited for attention now comes into the office as I type, looks up expectantly with ball in mouth and, if I don’t respond immediately, begins pawing my leg to let me know it’s time for a game.
You learn a lot about a dog in a year. You also learn a lot about yourself. Here are some of the things I’ve learned.
First, my tolerance for dog hair on the carpets and sofas, and mud on the leather seats in my car, is much higher than I thought possible. I still prefer things clean and neat, but there are some things you just have to let go. When you are over the moon for your dog you can overlook a lot.
Second, my capacity for loving an animal is far greater than I knew. When I look into those deep brown pools he has for eyes, when he cocks his head to one side as if to say “don’t go” when I leave the house, when he rolls over completely onto his back and rests his head in my lap – one way he says “belly rub, please” – I’m all his.
Third, all those cutesy pictures and videos people post on Facebook and YouTube of their dogs, the ones I always thought were for people with too much free time and not enough human contact? Some of them really are worth watching. I saw one the other day of a black lab puppy who goes downstairs by sliding on his belly. Boy, was that ever worth ten seconds of my time. Just adorable.
Fourth, having a dog lick your face isn’t as gross as it sounds.
Fifth, never mind the US Postal Service: neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, stays a dog from his appointed rounds, though they aren’t always swiftly completed and you have to go with him. There’s just no hiding from the weather when you have a dog.
Sixth, dogs, even wet dogs, smell better than I thought.
Seventh, dogs are great stress reducers. They don’t care that the car needs a new oxygen sensor, that the upstairs sink needs a $400 repair or that you have 26 errands to run in the next hour. If they have a stick or a tennis ball, life is good. A dog helps put things in perspective. I think that explains why my mother-in-law, who was in disbelief when we told her we were adopting a dog, wondering why we’d want to take on that responsibility, now asks if Albie can come with us when we visit.
Finally, I’ve learned that those lyrics from the theme song from “Toy Story” apply in spades when it comes to a loving dog: You’ve got a friend in me. Isn’t that right, Albie?