A dog is not only man’s best friend, but a way to bring friends and family closer together. I never really appreciated the magnitude of this gift until recently when my grandmother acquired a blind puppy named Winston. Looking back over the years, I can see how Rollifer, an unexpected Christmas pet, has proven this to me repeatedly. Our family’s aging golden retriever, Andromeda, also has demonstrated just how much dogs, with unconditional love and acceptance, unite people in a positive, fun, and satisfying way.
When my family first got Rollifer, I questioned the idea. He was a shaggy, hyper, six-week-old mutt picked up by a sheriff along a country road in Indiana. I had a strong feeling the animal was going to be a nuisance, and I was not looking forward to training him. However, within two months of getting the dog, I realized that he truly was becoming the family’s best friend and was bringing us closer together. Everyone had to pitch in to help feed and care for the puppy. I looked forward to that “dog time” after school, watching TV with his warm, wet nose against my neck. My two brothers developed their personal dog relationships, wrestling, teasing, and even howling at the moon with the dog. When Rollifer crossed the electric fence and disappeared for several hours, I suffered unexpected anxiety, stomach pains, and a deep sense of loss. The whole family searched the wet, dark woods for hours just to see his furry face again.
Our twelve-year-old golden retriever, Andra, is another prime example of this bonding phenomenon. She prefers to always have physical contact with a family member, placing her paw against a leg or foot. At bedtime, she will wait until someone comes upstairs to join her. My three sisters and two brothers have friendly competitions to see whose room Andra will choose. Often several kids end up piled in bed with the dog. She is cozy, warm, comforting, and just happy to be with us. Andra shows how much a dog can offer love and bonding with no unseen agenda.
Finally, I come to Winston, a miniature, long-haired dachshund puppy who was adopted by my grandma about six weeks ago. Family friends purchased Winston from a breeder, but closer examination showed that the puppy’s clumsy behaviors were due to congenital blindness. He has adapted by increasing his senses of touch, smell, and hearing, and he craves human voice and contact. He has more trust in people, and he sleeps like a stole wrapped around my grandmother’s neck. Everyone loves Winston. Neighbors, the original owners, friends, relatives, and even non-dog-lovers all visit Winston. He has become a uniting focus, sweet, loving, and non-threatening.
These canine pets truly have offered gifts that no object or other human can provide. They offer simple, unconditional love with no attachments. They help to create bonding memories that can last a lifetime, and they unite people in a special way.
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