This I Believe

Tom - Marshalltown, Iowa
Entered on July 21, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe in the Dog Man.

His name is Herb. He’s too shy and humble for you to know more. I can tell you he’s a retiree in my neighborhood who is a daily hero.

How does he change the world? By loving its dogs.

Herb loves all of the dogs all of the time. Not some dogs. Not just when he feels like it.

Herb wobbles a bit when he walks. He needs to lean on a stranger’s decorative flower box to rest sometimes. But he accomplishes his mission every day. If he must, he’ll drive on a rainy day to see his abandoned friends.

Herb walks the same route. He’s become a faithful companion to all of the neglected dogs in the neighborhood. They strain on chains too short, or pace away their loneliness in tiny kennels or empty backyards.

He’s learned all their names. The man budgets $22 a month from his tiny pension for dog treats. Not cheap bone-shaped junk food, but quality treats endorsed by veterinarians. The forgotten dogs, those scorned canines whose sole crime was in not remaining a puppy forever, get a few moments of attention from Herb every day. A bit of food — and some who don‘t get fed regularly are even more grateful. A pat on the head over the chain link. A true smile.

Herb isn’t a guy big on speeches. He’s a guy big on love.

If Herb would hand out advice like dog treats, I think this would be his message for all the absent or uncaring pet owners:

These adoring four-legged creatures aren’t pieces of property. They are beings full of hope and forgiveness who would still spend time with you, if you could only drop the remote control or shut off the computer a few minutes.

You aren’t a good person just because you feed the dog sometimes, or because you never hit your pet. You asked them to be in your lives. Your unwillingness to invite that dog inside on a cold, wet night hurts like a kick to the gut. Neglect is another kind of abuse that brings a pain just as strong.

Love those dogs every day. Not just when the weather’s perfect or there’s nothing good on TV. They’re worth giving more of your time. They’ve already given you their hearts.

Dog Man, this, too, I believe.