It was 12 years ago that I got my first dog. I'm not talking about the kind I had when I was growing up that belonged to the whole family. I'm talking about being on my own and having to take full responsibility for an actual other living creature.
I got Murphy by force, sort of. I was visiting Denver for a wedding and on my last day in town, my friend and I drove past a "Bassett puppies for sale" sign.
"Oh, we used to have a bassett when I was growing up," I said.
My friend slammed on the brakes and turned around.
"You need a dog," she said. "Everyone needs a dog!"
"Oh, I can't have a dog. I can't afford one."
Then she gave me a look. It was a look that said, "If I can own two New Foundland monsters, you certainly can have a little bassett hound!"
"Well, I guess it wouldn't hurt to look," I said, shrugging my shoulders.
The owner had two puppies left: one was mostly black -- just like the one from my childhood -- the other was brown.
"The black one is taken. This is the only one left," the owner said pointing to the sweet, little face with big, brown eyes.
I picked up the little girl and she instantly licked my face.
The next thing I remember was walking around in a pet store buying a collar, leash and puppy food.
It was a long drive back to Kansas, but the puppy slept cuddled in my lap the entire way.
"So this is puppy love," I thought.
Since then, I've had a few more puppies in my life. Currently, I have four, ranging in age from 13 years to 6 months. They're all golden retrievers.
It was my husband, Mark, who introduced me to goldens. I can't imagine owning any other breed. They suit our lifestyle perfectly: They excel athletically, but they also are great cuddlers when we want to watch TV.
But I'm not a golden snob. I love most dogs.
Since I became involved with the Peninsula Dog Obedience Group, or PenDOG, I've come to know many wonderful dogs. They come in all sizes, shapes, colors and breeds purebreds and mixed. Many of these dogs have done impressive feats -- some of them are even goldens.
I've seen a Great Dane crouch its massive body into a 24-inch-tall tunnel. I've seen a 10-inch tall silky terrier climb a 6-foot A-frame. I've seen dogs struggle to get across a teeter, and I've seen dogs struggle to sit.
But do you know what they all have in common?
They have owners who love them. Most dogs eventually will do what their owners ask, and they do it out of pure, unconditional love.
That's what puppy love is. It's knowing that no matter what kind of day you had, no matter what some crazy idiot did to you on your drive home from work, no matter how bad the pot roast turned out and no matter how horrible your haircut is, you can walk through your door and Fido will wag his tail or his butt if he doesn't have a tail -- and he'll lick your face.
That's a pretty good deal.
Back in 1928, Capt. Will Judy thought so, too. The noted dog judge and former publisher of Dog World Magazine started National Dog Week.
Today is the start of the 74th annual National Dog Week. It's supposed to remind us that owning a dog is and should be fun. It also serves to promote better care for all dogs.
My involvement with PenDOG has taught me a lot about having fun with my dog, and that there are a ton of ways to accomplish that. I started out doing basic obedience and agility guiding a dog through an obstacle course. But there's more. There's competition obedience, there's tracking, hunting, conformation, mushing, skijoring, search and rescue, therapy. The list goes on.
I realize these activities aren't for everyone, but even taking your dog for a walk can be an adventure and create a stronger bond, as can playing, petting and feeding your dog.
On Saturday, PenDOG will hold an open house to celebrate our four-legged friends. We plan to have demonstrations of some of the things you can do with your dog, plus guest speakers, representatives from animal shelters, the 4-H guide dog program, Kenai Kennel Club, Peninsula Retrievers Association and printed information on caring for your dog.
There will be refreshments and drawings, too, because it's a party. And shouldn't it be?
We think so. It's just a small way to give back to those who give so much to us.
Dori Lynn Anderson is the assistant editor at the Peninsula Clarion.
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