madison-press.com

Dogs, angels with fur

By Angela Shepherd ashepherd@civitasmedia.com

February 28, 2014

I’ve grown up with dogs. There is not a single point in my life that I can recall that hasn’t been touched by the presence of a dog. I knew a long time ago that home just wouldn’t quite be home without at least one dog in it.


Even though I know dogs well and have observed them for nearly 40 years, I never cease to be amazed when I hear a touching story about the relationships that come with our canine friends.


Just thinking about this has me thinking about Scout and Shelby.


I remember when I came home from the vet after having said goodbye to Scout, I crumbled in my entryway. I slid down the door into a puddle on the floor, so overcome with grief. And my other two dogs came quietly, not their usual bounding to whomever is walking through the door. I remember feeling the slightest touches of noses on my fingers, the tentative licks, kind of like saying, “We know, Mom, and we are here.”


These dogs did their fair share of grieving after the passing of both Scout and Shelby, but they were always there when one of us needed the comfort.


Every night our old girl Lucy, an all-business Shepherd mix, checks on the kids before she goes to bed herself. Scout used to do this, too.


They are always there, watching, and making sure their humans are safe.


I may constantly be in need of a lint brush and I may have to vacuum more than most people, but it is worth any bit of frustration or extra work that comes my way.


I have found such comfort with my canine companions and have marveled at the capacity for unconditional love and unswerving devotion. And a day last week, I was once again reminded of why, for as long as I can remember, there have been dogs in my life.


What began as a few tears turned to near sobs as I watched a short video called, “A Boy and His Dog.”


The video, according to a YouTube blurb, was made last year as part of a documentary filmmaking course at a British university.


It is one of those stories that reminds you of how triumphant the human spirit can be and how that is, in so many cases, because of a dog.


This little boy, 7 years old when the video was made, has a rare muscular disorder that causes every muscle in his little body to be constantly contracted.


The boy, Owen, and his dog, Haatchi, are inseparable.


Owen’s parents said the little boy never wanted to go outside the house, so fearful was he of strangers and their negative attention to his condition.


But one day, there was Haatchi, who had been through his own kind of hell, abused and left tied to railroad tracks where he was struck, losing a leg in the process. His tail is nothing more than a stub.


Owen’s stepmother described an instant connection to this dog, and when she brought him to meet Owen, she said the bond between the two was special from the first moment.


Since Haatchi came into their lives, Owen said he is not afraid of strangers anymore.


Owen’s stepmother said Haatchi, this big Anatolian shepherd with a stubby tail and three legs, is the one people ask about when Owen is out, and this sort of interaction has given Owen the confidence to be able to tell his own story.


Now, Owen said, going on walks and attending dog shows are some of his and Haatchi’s favorite things to do.


In fact, the two buddies were honored at the British dog show Crufts last year, where Haatchi won the Friends For Life contest, an annual thing Cruft’s does to celebrate the impact dogs can have in the lives of humans.


“I am so happy,” Owen said at the time. “I am glad that Haatchi is in my life because he makes me smile all the time and is my best friend.”


In the video, Owen is speechless and seemingly overcome with emotion when he knows his Haatchi has won the award, voted on by the British public.


This video, this university student project, has been covered over and over again by media everywhere, but for good reason.


It’s one of those feel good stories that, well, makes you feel good and reminds us of simple things like love and companionship, something a dog, any dog, has in spades to give.


Yes, we see these stories all the time, these stories about the special bonds between man’s best friend and man, but it never ceases to amaze me really.


I know these things, what dogs are capable of, and what people are capable of, too. But it doesn’t hurt to be reminded.


Life can be simple, and life, stripped of worries and fears, can be as uncomplicated as chasing a ball, sleeping in a patch of sun, or chewing on a master’s smelly sock.


Life, happiness, can be the simple acts of loving and trusting and smiling no matter the circumstances.


Angela Shepherd can be reached at (937) 393-3456 or on Twitter @ashepherdHTG