I smiled this morning while looking at my calendar when I realized that it was National Dog Day. It seems every few days is some kind of holiday, but many of them do not resonate with me. But National Dog Day is one I can embrace.
Through the years, we’ve had great dogs. All of them were either given to us or wandered into our lives. There must be some kind of canine sign that says, “For a good meal and a warm bed, go to Rick and Jilda’s house.” Most of the mutts had dubious pedigrees, but that didn’t stop them from nuzzling they way into our hearts.
A longhaired German shepherd named Duke was the first dog that owned us. I have hundreds of photographs we took of him through the years. He loved to ride.
During the summer, I would leave the back window of my old Plymouth Valiant open. The instant Duke heard the rattle of keys he was off like a shot, diving into the backseat like a stunt dog.
Later when I bought my first pickup, he rode in the back to Grand Rapids, Michigan with us. When it began to rain and sleet, he shared the bucket seat with Jilda through most of Indiana.
He lived with us for 13 years and when he died, we both wept as if we’d lost a child.
There was a story in my first book Remembering Big that detailed how another mutt named Ol’ Buddy came to live with us.
He was a snarky little critter that belonged to Jilda’s mom. I despised that little beast but when Ruby broke her hip and was hospitalized for weeks, it fell to me to feed Ol’ Buddy.
Each day when I went to feed him, he would race out of her house, run to the spot where she’d fallen, and look in the direction the ambulance had taken her. I did the same routine for weeks. He ate very little and I was afraid he would grieve himself to death before Ruby made it home.
One Saturday when I went to feed him, I just sat down on the ground beside him. I had a couple of Slim Jim sausages and I broke off and fed him little pieces while sitting with him staring down the road.
Slowly he crawled up into my lap and we sat there for a long time. After a while, we stood and he followed me to the truck. He lived with Jilda and me for many years.
Some dogs bonded with me, and others, not so much. We had one dog we named Gibson. She adored Jilda and would not have cared if aliens had abducted me. That little short-legged lab (mix) lived to be almost 17.
Our friends share pictures of their kids and grandkids, but I always reach for my phone to show pictures of our pups.
As I type these words, Caillou the wonder collie is at my feet. He and our little Yorkie look like thoroughbred dogs, but we don’t hold that against them.
If you haven’t already, I suggest you hug your mutt in honor of National Dog Day.
Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book Life Changes is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.