A very, very long time ago, when men and women lived in caves and there were no dogs, someone somewhere saw an opportunity.  Don’t great things always happen that way; the telephone, the nectarine, the iPad mini, the wheel.  So some primitive woman thought, Wowsa, these wolves that are hanging around the cave to chomp on the bones we toss out, they’re having offspring, and the pups are even friendlier and incredibly cuter.  I wonder, she might have thought, if Oog would like to have one.  Or perhaps one cold night, one of the mildest of those wild wolves crept into the cave and curled up at the feet of one of our snoring ancestors.  Wowsa, he might have thought but probably not exactly in words, this is a hell of a lot warmer than it is out there.  One way or another, the wolves wiggled their way into the lives of the people.  One way or another, without the help of a lawyer or even a legal aide, a contract, an unwritten, unspoken contract was drawn up and paw-printed and x’ed and everything became a done deal.  You help us.  We’ll help you.  And that’s it.  Forever.  

Some people, modern folks like ourselves, think it’s too much work to keep a dog nowadays.  Back then, there was no real need to house train, say.  The people and the dogs, those creatures the friendly wolves morphed into, got up in the morning, stretched, left the cave to see what kind of a day it was, relieved themselves and went back inside to eat some berries or chew on a bone, respectively, maybe even respectfully.  Now, you get up at the crack of dawn, schlep your leashed dog around the block a few times, bag and toss, come back inside for coffee and kibble.  Oy.  So much work.

But what about the contract?  What about the part you have to read between the unwritten lines?

So here it is.  It says that everything you do for your dog is good for you.  This is worth repeating, but I’m not going to type it again.  Just go back and read it again.  You know how you obsess about the noisy neighbors, your middling career, the kids’ not so hot grades, what to be when you grow up, the threat of nuclear war, the dangers of insecticides, the possible diagnosis of a rare but fatal illness, what the government might or might not do next, whether or not the flu shot is safe, what colors will be huge this coming season.  That stuff.  And more.  But when you are mixing up the dog food, pulling on your boots, brushing your dog’s soft coat, teaching him to do a High Five (they can’t really do a fist bump), the dog is keeping up his end of the bargain.  He’s sticking to the contract.  He’s helping you.


He’s distracting you from the things huge and small that fill your mind.  He’s making sure you get some exercise.  He’s wagging his tail and getting you with the program.  He’s cheering you on and up.  He’s offering you love even when you wake up with a zit.  Or fired.  He’s licking away your tears when you are sad.  And he’s still warming your feet.

If, like me, you need more, you don’t need an addendum to the contract.  It’s all there.  Got pain?  The dog will change your body chemistry.  Can’t see?  He’ll take you where you need to go.  Can’t hear?  He’ll run back and forth between you and where the sound you can’t hear is.  Falling over sideways, he’ll brace you.  He’ll be your doctor, your cheerleader, your clown.  He’ll help you gather the flock, if you’ve got one.  He’ll retrieve the duck you shoot or the ball you throw.  And at night, you got it, he’ll still warm your feet.

It’s a small price to pay, the things you do for your dog, the money you spend, the food you share, because he’s been there, he’s been around, for all our history and who knows, who even wants to know, what life might be without him.  Feh, as my grandmother Fanny used to say.  Unthinkable!