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UNCONDITIONAL LOVE WALKS ON FOUR PAWS

It’s no coincidence that dog is God spelled backward. They are a gift to humans, and I’ve partaken most of my life. We had German Shepherds when I was growing up – King, who’d failed at the Indianapolis Police Academy but did an excellent job guarding a family of six, and his sidekick Pepper. When I was in college, I fell in love with the Chow Chow breed when a chum brought his puppy to a fraternity party. I vowed to get one someday, and I did, a few years later. His name was Rojo. He was followed in my life by Wolfgang, Amanda, and now Maddie.



What I adore about chows is beyond their beauty. It’s their superior intelligence. It is true they are practically “born housebroken.” They learn very quickly how to ask to go outside. And aside from chewing on furniture and destroying doggie beds, they do very little damage to a family home. Some people think chows are stubborn, or stupid. That’s not true. While some breeds can be taught to embarrass themselves by sitting, heeling, begging for treats, or jumping through rings, Chows remain dignified and understand that behavior is strictly optional. Why trouble themselves unless there is something good in for them – something really good.


My husband Tim and I talk to each other through the dog, reporting on what she found interesting on a walk, how many treats she had in the last hour, whether she pooped, and whether it was well-formed or runny. And if she went twice (a double-bagger) that is an accomplishment to be proud of. That’s the stuff of text messages to our moms. Our level of pride in her accomplishments is right up there with that of a parent announcing a child had just been accepted in law school or had hit a grand slam that day. If a friend or family member accidentally butt-dials me at 4 in the morning, there could be consequences. But if Maddie has a tummy ache and needs me to prepare some rice or pumpkin for her, this is a welcome labor of love.


In the past week, Maddie both warmed our hearts and nearly made them stop beating. Sunday, she was having zoomies – a wild outburst that happens when she is happy or proud of herself following a successful outdoor business deal. She runs upstairs where it is carpeted, growls with her ears thrown back, and her eyes looking like she’s crazy. She circles around in the TV room, then skids down the hall, usually trying to attack our feet if we are within reach, or crash landing on her bed in our room. But this time she came in too fast and hard, crashing into her bed. I heard her squeal and saw her running back down the hall on three legs, something she never does. Usually if a paw is hurt, it heals very quickly and she doesn’t limp for long. This time was different. Monday, we took her to a pet emergency room where the humans were wonderful to us, and to her. X-rays revealed no broken bones or fractures, but just arthritis that comes with aging. Pain meds for a few days, rest, and limited physical activity (no wild zoom

ies), they told us, would make her better.


She still has a little bit of a limp when she stands up after a long nap, but she’s herself again, and we are grateful for every moment that she graces us with her presence.


I understand that sometimes people’s circumstances change, and they can no longer keep a dog, so they do the right thing and rehome them. I’ll never understand, though, why so many able-bodied people take dogs into their families and then banish them to live outdoors, never bathe or rub them, and even let them starve.


Dogs are a gift from God. They never stop loving you – ever – and their love is unconditional. What’s better than that?


Postscript: Maddie’s morning walk was successful. And she’s had too many treats to count today.


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