Originally created 07/18/04

Some of life's best lessons are learned from puppies



The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.

- Andrew A. Rooney

I am standing in my front yard. It is 4 a.m. Dark. Quiet. Stars twinkle above my head, and I look at them, trying to figure out the constellations.

I look down when reality bites at my bare foot.

The dog days have returned. Forty years after my first puppy, I again have another.

I had resisted for so long, but you know how it is. Some marriages are about compromise. Mine has been a series of surrenders.

The latest involves a 4-pound bundle of white fur that chews everything he can get his sharp little teeth into.

This behavior is ignored by my loving wife, who has been singing the praises of puppies for years.

She had three dogs when we married, but they all eventually succumbed to age and illness.

She missed them all. She wanted a new dog. She played the trump card.

"You don't want your son to grow up without a dog, do you?"

"No," I finally agreed, considering the 10-year-old heir to my baseball card collection.

"A boy without a dog in his childhood is somehow incomplete. It's like growing up without having the measles."

Breeds were researched. Arrangements were made. The little white terrier was chosen.

He has lived with us now for two weeks, gnawing his way into our hearts.

Of course, I am not standing in a front yard because he chews. I am standing here because his restroom requirements are still erratic.

I marvel that a man of my age and position has some say-so on the daily schedules of three dozen people, yet my own waking hours are being arranged by an 8-week-old canine.

Why? Well, I guess it's like this:

I remember.

I know a dog can teach a 10-year-old boy more about love and loyalty than any teacher or book or sermon I know.

And a puppy can do it with a joy that brings us all down to his level.

It's a happy level.

I look forward to sinking to it when I come home from work and he recognizes me at the door and sprints forward on those stubby little legs, a licking, yipping bundle of happiness.

My day might be over, but it looks like I just made his.

That's why it has come to this.

That's why I'm standing outside in the dark with my dog, and not really minding it.

That's why I'm looking back up toward the stars and telling someone thank you.

I'm not learning any new tricks, just remembering old ones.

Reach Bill Kirby at (706) 823-3344 or bill.kirby@augustachronicle.com.