Have you ever wondered why we choose the dogs we do to share our lives?
As a longtime lover of dogs, I’ve often wondered why I’ve chosen certain dogs over others through the years.
As I reflect on all this, to my delight, if not my editor’s, dogs long gone and some still living, echo through the canyons of my memory. Most were large, a few were small. Most were mutts, a few were pure bred, with papers to prove it.
The canine characteristic most common to the dogs I’ve known, owned and loved unconditionally since boyhood is friendliness. I like my dogs on the friendly side, outgoing, adventurous, but not overly aggressive. Since neither of my current canine companions, Big Dog and Buddy, can read, I confess to my preference for labrador retrievers, most notably “Ted, the Wonder Dog,” who was a loving and loved part of the Vaughn family over a decade in the 1970s and 1980s. He was friendly and outgoing to friend and foe alike, except for cats, ducks, and squirrels. His flair for adventure was well-known and sometimes tolerated in appreciation of his other virtues. Unfortunately, he succumbed to complications from epilepsy, but lives on in our family memories.
As my fellow dog lovers know, there’s a lot of literature about why we choose the dogs we like over those we don’t. Among my favorites is Stanley Coren’s book, Why We Love the Dogs We Do. He explains why some of us are canine connoisseurs and others are not, and why some of us favor a particular breed of dog.
I commend Coren’s book to my vast North American reading audience, with but one caveat, from Francis Bacon, “Read not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider.” Now that’s sound advice for most any occasion, including choosing a dog that best blends with your personality and lifestyle.
When I “weigh and consider” choosing the dogs in my life, I’m reminded of how many of them actually chose me or a member of family as the center of their all too brief lives.
For example, Big Dog was “dropped” in my Westwood neighborhood as a puppy, all skin and bones, and obviously abused. He chose our home as a friendly place to land and has never left my side. Along the way, he’s gone with pleasure from house dog in the city to field dog in the country.
Buddy is also a “rescue dog.” Abandoned by his former owners to fend for himself, he found a home, at Betty’s behest, here in Pleasant Cove. He’s gone AWOL only once, for a brief fling, before returning to hearth and home.
The love between dog and owner can be one of the strongest bonds ever. If we make the right choice.
Retired Army Col. Thomas B. Vaughn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.