My Love for A Dog, And . . .

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I hardly know anything technical about dogs. For this essay I read a couple of articles about Yellow Labs.

Two of my grand kids have a Yellow Lab. His name is Eli and I’ve built a good relationship with him. (Really? Labs get along with everyone. They’d be elected student body president every semester if they were humans.)

Eli is careful around little kids. That’s the most important thing for me; probably for everyone.

I’ve had my own experiences with Eli.

Not too long ago, I was sitting on the floor watching TV when Eli came up and sat next to me. I leaned on him ever so slightly. He leaned back on me. I leaned a little more and he reciprocated. The next thing I know we’re having a leaning contest. I started laughing. It cracked me up. It was like two little kids playing. I don’t know if dogs smile, but I sensed he was. (Maybe I was projecting.)

After a few seconds he walked away and laid down about ten feet from me. About five minutes later, he came up to me again. This time he started leaning on me first. We started the leaning game again. I started laughing again, but this time I got up and walked away. He laid down on the spot and I sat on the couch.

After a couple of minutes he came over and sat on my feet. Because I trusted Eli, I pushed him off my feet – most importantly, confidently.

You see, I was bitten by a dog when I was barely four years old. I’m sure I did something that caused it, but I can’t honestly remember. However, I do remember being taken to the doctor. The bite drew blood. To this day I have a tiny scar on the lower part of my left cheek.

From that day on, I’ve had a cautious approach toward dogs. I can’t say I like petting dogs, and I don’t like getting down close to their mouths. I’m not a freak about it; after all, I lived in South America for two years as a Mormon missionary and was around dozens of dogs everyday when tracking in dusty barrios. I learned to ignore their barking and even their running after me while I was on my bike. Dogs don’t have the same status in poor South American neighborhoods as they do in middle class America. They just seem to exist alongside humans there. I never saw a dog petted by anyone. Dogs bark but they don’t bite. I can’t remember anyone being bitten. One time I was walking down the street with another missionary with this dog barking at us from behind. It was no different than any other dog on any other day, but for some reason the missionary turned around and kicked the dog in the head. The dog ran off squealing.

“Elder, why did you do that?” I asked in a shocked voice.

“I hate barking dogs,” he quipped.

This guy had been a high school rodeo star in Arizona before coming to South America.

He had a mean disposition that flared up out of nowhere.

From that point on, I had two things I became cautious of: getting too close to dogs mouths, and being with people who mistreated dogs.

Back to Eli. He likes it when we’re at eye level playing. I know he won’t bite, and he knows I feel comfortable (and confident) when I push him away.

When I’ve had enough I’ve learned to put my hand out about hip level palm down and he just moves away calmly.

Not only is Eli gentle with my grandkids, but they’re gentle with him. And their parents are gentle with them.

But, if you want to play hard, he’s up for it, always. This is an incredible animal. He’s helped me overcome my caution (fear) around dogs, at least around Labs.

But, I’m still cautious around people who are mean to dogs. There aren’t many of those I’ve met in my life, only one in fact. That’s not true.

I knew this kid growing up who not only was cruel to dogs, but to cats – especially to cats. He made the rodeo star look tame. Nothing good came from that kid. He became a violent criminal. He spent his teenage and adult life in prison. Things don’t start out right for kids like that. Kids become really mean if they are sorely beaten as small children, or they have chemical problems in their brains, or both. Humans normally aren’t programmed to be ugly mean. . .