Just a Dog: Introduction

My dog Shasta in July 2014
My dog Shasta in July 2014

I’ve loved dogs since I first realized what they were, four-legged loyal companions that were silly, dumb, and just lovely creatures that were both protectors and friends. As I get older my love for them increases, to the point now where I feel the need to become more active in the pet community and make strides to both understand them better and volunteer my time to help them. My experience is my own, though similar to folks that live in rural areas no doubt. There’s something unpolished about the treatment of dogs in rural communities. Many people don’t give them the respect they deserve, though it depends on the person.

This is the first of a series of essays about dogs, my dogs, and my family’s dogs through the years, and other dogs too. It’s also about my memories of my parents and my siblings. It’s going to be full of memories half-remember. Full of love, guilt, sadness, and joy. It’s also a memorial to two of the best, most affectionate dogs I’ve ever owned, and it’s a catharsis for losing them. A way for me to carry on.

I’m not an expert on dogs. I know as much as a dog owner should, like what foods should and shouldn’t go into their wildly temperamental tummies. How to treat them when their hackles are up. I’ve learned the hard way how to handle fighting dogs. If I get something wrong, well, I’m not an expert, I’m using limited knowledge and perhaps haven’t come across the correct information.

For a long time, I’d hear the maxim, “it’s sad, but remember it’s just a dog”, hence the title of this series of essays. To some folks, they are just dogs and don’t deserve consideration. But they aren’t just dogs to me, nor many people. It’s because they are dogs that I love so much.

One more thing before I end this intro, as I progress through it you’ll see little mention of my mother owning dogs, growing up my siblings were out of the house and the dogs were my father’s or mine (or both making them family dogs). My mother claimed no dogs as her own. She rarely showed particular affection for many of the dogs. She told me once that she’d lost a pet (a cat; I believe) as a young girl and didn’t like the feeling and the grief that came from it. But you’ll see as we progress through the essays she grew attached to the dogs, despite her best efforts not too. And at the end of her life, she became remarkably tenderhearted. So while she’s never given ownership, she’s always there and helping to take care of the dogs, just as she took care of the family.

This introduction is also a bit of an outline of what to expect in future installments. To begin with, I’m going to talk about my father and two dogs significant in his life, or at least as I saw it. Then I’m going to talk about my grandmother and the two dogs that she had while I was growing up. Then I’ll move onto the dogs that were family dogs, or my dogs until I left home. Through all of this, there will be stories of my sibling’s dogs, memories of growing up, and reflections of life here in the middle of nowhere Utah. This is going to be a long series, so I hope you’ll bear with me. The goal is to release an essay a week until, well, I’m finished. But this week I’m going to make an exception and you’ll get the first installment in a few days. I hope you enjoy it.

Next: Dad and Wilbur.

I podcast. I write. I compose. I work a 9–5. I read and game. And I hang out with my dogs and my one-eyed cat.