Big Love

Things I love cont’d…


I was chatting with the high school librarian recently about my new book, Sammy and the Devil Dog. We quite naturally swung into a rhapsody about how much we love dogs. Being a librarian she pulled up a beautiful book Beloved Dogs that had been written by artist Maira Kalman about the dogs in her life. I struck in with Gary Paulson’s My Life in Dog Years.

And as I wandered away, I wondered what it is about these creatures that make us fanatics. Dogs are loud, dirty and inconvenient. They have bad breath and like to lick their bottoms. Sometimes they growl and snarl.


When I am overwhelmed with sadness or just have a bout of flu, Emmett and Sadie press against me and give me anxious kisses – tiny tongue touches from Sadie; big swipes from Emmett. I can tell them anything or just whinge and complain and they never judge or roll their eyes.

When my grandsons make a mighty ball throw of six or seven feet, the dogs take the will for deed and fetch, bark, and prance for more. The dogs have taught me that treats make everyone’s life better, and should be regularly indulged. Life has taught me that only an idiot will pass up love.

Emmett, my 70 pound border collie-who-knows-what mix gets a look of practically drugged-up bliss when he can climb into my lap, place a paw on each shoulder and rest his big head against my cheek. This is the dog who protects me from all comers with his Cujo style grin. He makes me feel seriously protected when 250 lb. delivery folks back up and ask if he’s safe. (He is but they don’t need to know that!)

Sadie has the softest fur ever created. She’s a bit reserved, but she is the official greeter-and now-that-I-know-you-let-me-love-you member of the house. Nothing makes her happier than to have her belly rubbed, except maybe the chance to nanny small children. My four-year-old grandson, crouching beside her, told me seriously that Sadie is his perfect dog. She looks at you with melty chocolate eyes and the best you-are-special calm attention.

If it isn’t already part of your life, I don’t know how to describe the sensation of rubbing fingers over soft fur as a casual, several times a day ritual touch in passing. The look of complete absorption on their faces when you speak. The sense that they see into your soul, past the overweight, the stumbles, and the wrinkles, to the perfection the universe had intended for you but somehow got mislaid in the trials of life. That they think you are the best in show.

Many others have said this before and better about the pups in their lives. But in all the decades that dogs have been part of my family, I have never gotten over the wonder that for so little in return, creation has offered me such uncritical love.