There are few things more encouraging than watching an old, blind three-legged dog bounce around like a furry tripod, slobbering on itself and wheezing, completely unfazed by its own flatulence. It causes one, at least in my case, to look inward. How can I dwell on my little problems when that dog, off-balance and addled, believes there’s nothing wrong with this glorious world?
I saw that three-legged dog in a park last week and wondered why it made me smile. If you think about it, it could be sad, but with dogs it’s not. That’s what I love about dogs, along with their companionship and entertainment value. They are happy – happy to love you, to repeatedly retrieve a stick, to eat that bland food you put in their bowl. My dog, Penny, is my only roommate and though she doesn’t pay rent, I forgive her. She’s the best roommate I could ask for, hair shedding issues and all.
Penny comes to the Beacon office with me everyday. Since she began accompanying me, I no longer receive greetings from coworkers in the morning. All attention is directed to my hairy quadruped friend. She returns the greetings, giddily wagging her tail and sniffing everybody until she’s bored with the formalities. Then she beds down and snores for the rest of the day.
Sometimes I catch Penny staring at me. When I return the stare she perks up, bristles slightly and then returns to her sleeping position. I never understand these exchanges, but I believe she wants to say something like, “What are you looking at?” or, “Food, food, sleep, food, food, sleep, uh-oh, time to go outside.”
Penny is getting strange in her old age. Whereas rawhide dog bones used to be chewable pleasures, now they are just things to bury in the yard. I even threw her a piece of pizza crust, which I don’t do often, and she immediately took it outside and placed it next to her other underground stowaways. She returned with a brown nose and a swagger that said, “Go ahead; try to find it.”
Perhaps the hardest thing for Penny to understand about me is my continual insistence on picking up the landmines she plants in the yard. Penny is a large yellow Labrador retriever and she leaves large deposits. She watches me from a couple feet away, with her head tilted and her ears perked, truly baffled. In those moments, I think she loses a little faith – she realizes that her owner, to whom she has entrusted her life, voluntarily and habitually touches what she understands should be avoided by all means.
But even in moments of confusion, when I bewilder Penny with my cleaning habits or when she does her curious food-burying routine, I find her inspiring in a simple way. Penny’s always happy, just like that three-legged dog is, so I should at least try to be too.
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