Cumberland Times-News

February 9, 2013

He will take his time and pick a good one

Jim Goldsworthy, Columnist
Cumberland Times-News

— People who know I love dogs sometimes ask why I don’t have one. I tell them I’ve had plenty of dogs — other people’s dogs, that is.

As to why I don’t have a dog of my own, I refer to Goldy’s Rule 67, which is an old military axiom: Amateurs argue about tactics; professionals worry about logistics.

Finding a dog I like, and which likes me, would be the easiest thing in the world. I have no idea how many dogs have adopted me.

But then, I would have to worry about keeping it properly fed, trained and maintained (which includes grooming it, cleaning up after it and taking it to the vet when it’s sick) and what to do with it when I’m not at home.

A cat, you can put out a few days’ worth of food — which the cat will ration — and leave by itself. A dog will think it’s gone to heaven and eat all of the food at one sitting, then wonder why its human isn’t showing up to bring more.

When I was a kid, I had Rusty, a cross between a purebred Cocker Spaniel and a terrier of some kind who snuck into the breeder’s house through the ventilating system. (He must have been one hell of a dog.)

Rusty’s residence at our home lasted until he escaped his pen in the basement and inflicted massive shock and awe upon my mother’s laundry. I still miss him.

I have the same attitude toward dogs that some folks have toward their grandchildren:

Love them, spoil them, enjoy their company and then — when the time is right — either call their parents to come and get them or go home yourself. The analogy works because, just like a child, a dog can work its way into your heart in no time and become family. (I’ve also been adopted by a number of other people’s kids.)

For one thing, a dog is capable of providing an unconditional love that few humans can manage. A dog is always glad to see you, even when you haven’t been away for long and, if there is something wrong, the dog will realize that and do what it can to comfort you.

(Q: If your wife is at the front door hollering to be let in, and your dog is at the back door barking to be let in, which one do you let in first? A: The dog. It will be overjoyed and stop barking immediately.)

A few cats have endeared themselves to me for the same reasons dogs do.

One of my favorite pet stories involves a former girlfriend chasing her cat around a pitch-dark room, stumbling over things and promising to kill it when she got her hands on it, using a vocabulary I didn’t know she had.

It took me a moment to figure out exactly what had happened, then I began laughing as hard as I’ve ever laughed at anything.

I loved that cat and, apparently, it loved me.

Pets are subject to the same frailties as humans, and age or illness can take them from us sooner than we were ready for it to happen ... as if we ever are.

It’s a hard thing to go through, and it can be just as hard to watch.

The Dog Shouter had a beloved old English Springer Spaniel named Doobie who, feeble though she was, started attacking the other dogs. So The Dog Shouter called and asked if I would ride with her and Doobie to the veterinarian’s office to do what had to be done.

It was a day I will never forget. When someone close to you is in pain, that pain becomes yours, or it should.

And while you may be able to find a way to cope with your own pain, about the only way to deal with someone else’s is to follow Goldy’s Rule 111: There are times when the best thing you can say to someone is, “You are not alone. I am here with you.”

That’s what I recently told a friend whose dog succumbed to one of the seizures that started coming more frequently and with greater intensity.

The dog actually bit her when she went to help it, and not because it wanted to. It’s too soon to tell, but the bite may have caused lasting nerve damage in her hand.

“I’d do it again, even knowing that would happen,” she said. And she would, because that’s the type of person she is. She has been a good friend.

We can talk to each other about things we might not discuss with anyone else, and we just enjoy talking in general.

There have been times when I’ve had her back, and she’s had mine.

She’s happily married, having made just as good a choice for a mate as he did. Her life is far different now than it was when I met her, and I doubt that she has any idea of just how happy that makes me. As you try to help bear the pain experienced by those who are close to you, you also should exult in their joy.

One of the greatest lessons my parents taught me is Goldy’s Rule 125: It is possible to be friends, and nothing more, with someone of the opposite sex. If you look at such folks solely as targets of opportunity, you eliminate by half your pool of potential friends — and you can never have enough friends.

Alfie was her dog’s name. I never met him, but his picture shows that he bore an amazing resemblance to one of my favorite dogs — Scott, who always knew when I was coming to visit. His owners said he would suddenly get up from his nap to go to the door and sit there to wait for me. The timing of this was such that he apparently went to his post just as I was leaving my house.

“Alfie was a stray,” my friend said. “He found us, and at a time when we were having some problems. He loved us and was there for us. We needed him just as much as he needed us, and we had him for five years.”

She believes that someday, she and her family will find another great dog, not to take the place of the one that’s gone to wait for them at the Rainbow Bridge, but to make a place of its own in their hearts.

“Alfie will find one and send him to us,” she said.

That’s right, I said, but it may take a while. He’s going to make sure that he’s picked a good one.

Goldy’s Rule 124 states that “If something is meant to happen, it will happen when it is supposed to happen, and not before — particularly if it is something good.” (Source: Ecclesiastes 3:1 ... “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”)

This applies to pets, people or anything else.

The neat thing is that it usually happens when you least expect it.