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  • Writer's pictureDotty Ann Harding

A Boy And His Dog

My dear friend Rita sent me photos of her grandson over the years that clearly showed the bond that can exist between a boy and his dog. He was blessed by sharing life with her and the many animals she cared for, experiencing many aspects of life that most young people never have the opportunity to witness. She is a Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator devoted to caring for and treating injured and abandoned animals and, when possible returning them to the wild or finding a home. I have known this family for many years and have seen the importance of having a relationship and responsibility toward the animals in their care. This aspect has enabled him to navigate through the rough spots that growing up brings to us. There are many studies on building a relationship between children and their pets and guidelines for safety and bonding, which is a more academic approach to me. So instead, in this article, I would like to address the emotionality and use my experience as a pet owner my entire life.

My dad was a bus driver when I was growing up, and he always chose the late shift, as it was a higher pay rate. So he got home after midnight and always took his German Shepherd for a late-night walk, a quiet bonding time when they were together. As we age and look back on our childhood days, they seemed like a different time… and they were. I only learned about those long walks my dad shared with his dog when I was older, about to leave home for college, and happened to be coming in for the night as he also was coming back from one of those walks. So that was a special time in my life, on those warm, quiet summer nights back in 1964, sitting on the patio with my dad as we discussed life's dreams for the future and events changing the world. We did not realize it then, but those moments will never come again, but be replaced by events when you are developing your career and young family. So I now savor those memories I shared with my dad long ago, for they are now a part of time that will be fondly remembered and cherished.

I learned as a child how to behave around a dog, especially one larger than myself, as my dad, who served in the Military Police, always had large dogs: Shepherds, Boxers, and Dobermans. I never remember fear but respect for the beautiful dogs that were part of my life growing up. We never rough-housed with them but walked with them, looking deeply into their eyes, speaking to them, gently petting them, learning to respect them as fellow creatures, and learning to know their needs. Being taught how and what to feed them, what would be harmful to them, and respecting their space, especially when eating or giving them a treat.

As most of us know, our younger years can be filled with learning and adventure, with some of the knowledge we learn arising from poor decisions, usually made by being uninformed and unaware of the consequences of those decisions. But, I realized that my dog was always there for me, listening without comment or judgment, and I always knew they loved me unconditionally. I never experienced criticism or rejection from them, but watching my every move to be able to be by my side. I felt their love and protection; all they asked in return was to be with me, loved and cared for.

So what do these creatures do for us humans? I guess it makes us human. Being a caring individual capable of sacrificing to love another living creature... how blessed we are, and yes, dog is God spelled backward. We have heard this before, but will we play it forward to those who are our family? To give them respect and space and be a listening, compassionate partner in this life we are journeying through.


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