Dog is Love? No, that isn’t a typo. I can’t be the only one who’s thought about the fact that DOG is GOD spelled backwards, can I? Dogs give us unconditional love. We come home after a bad day and see that tongue hanging out, that tail wagging, and we let the day go. We take that little doggie-human outside, go for a walk, throw a ball, and the stress of the day dissolves into the air as we throw the ball again and again for a little guy who’s just happy to have his family home for the evening.
My daughter Ashley had begged for a dog for years. Her stepdad and I were skeptical. We had married when she was five, and shortly after the three of us moved in together, she cried great big tears and declared, “Everybody in this house has somebody to sleep with but me! I want a kitty!” Though we weren’t cat lovers, we let one of my students, who lived on a farm, talk us into a calico kitten, a beautiful ball of fur who came into our home and demanded that we love her on her own terms. She hadn’t lived in our house more than a week when my daughter tired of her and started asking for a dog instead. We resisted her pleas until the Friday night pizza delivery girl fell in love with the cat and offered to give her a good home. Delighted that she loved the cat more than we did, we breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that the cat would be happier with her than she had ever been with us.
Unwilling to have another pet disaster, we resisted my daughter’s pleas for several years. But since she was an only child, we ultimately decided it would be good for her to have the companionship and responsibility of a dog. We researched various breeds, but we had a friend who had Shelties, so we went to a breeder and fell in love with Murphy, a blue merle who was frightened of his own shadow but who loved us and gave his loyalty to us from the moment we brought him through our front door.
Murphy was the perfect dog. He barked only when someone knocked on the front door and, oddly, when we cracked a boiled egg for breakfast in the morning. He lived to please us. He pranced beside us when we went for a walk, ignoring all the dogs that barked when he trotted by, his head in the air as if he were a prince and barking were beneath him. He happily went with Ashley when she visited her father, and he pranced around our feet, wagging his tail when he came home. Shortly after Ashley left for college, he died of cancer, and we all cried for weeks. Even Ashley’s father cried. Even our friends cried. And for months after he died, people said his name,Murphy, in a tone of reverence.
My husband Matt and I didn’t think we would get another dog. But the house was too quiet, with both Ashley and Murphy gone. So when Ashley came home for winter break, we went back to the breeder who introduced us to Murphy, and we picked out Beckley, another Sheltie, but who looked more like Lassie than Murphy. And though we’d been warned that it was a bad idea to get a dog of the same breed, we brought Beckley home with great excitement. While Murphy had been sweet and docile, Beckley was an alpha dog who barked at other dogs, at geese, at birds perching on the feeder in the back yard, at the telephone, at other dogs on television, and even at our sneezes. Matt and Ashley fell in love with Becks before I did. Matt trained him, and Ashley taught him to sing. But I couldn’t forgive him at first for not being Murphy.
But like Murphy, Beckley was always happy to see us. He barked fiercely when we left for work in the morning, as though demanding that we stay with him. And as soon as he heard the garage door in the evening, he began barking again, happily prancing around our feet as we came in the door and put down the baggage of the day.
And when, after I had cancer, the oncologist suggested that I try to walk every day, Beckley fell in love with me and I with him. Every morning when the alarm goes off, he looks at me expectantly and waits patiently by the front door while I don coat and gloves and grab a flashlight to walk in the pre-dawn hours in the quiet of our neighborhood. I tell Beckley to look at the stars and the moon, and his ears perk up at the sound of my voice. “This is the day that God has made, Beckley. What do you think?” He wags his tail and looks at me with love, and I think, What a great way to start the day—with the dog that God hath made. Thank you, God, for dogs and for their unconditional love.