I love dogs. I think writers need animals. Dogs, cats, whatever, we need to be surrounded by pets. There are times though when all of us (even writers) are ungrateful owners: our pets become a nuisance. Come in, go out, mess or puke on the rug, sickness, aging, and constant begging for attention. Just like us. Okay, maybe I don’t mess on the rug (any more) but bear with me.
New dogs are great. Puppies are awesome, and those moments when you bond with something that is a someone is awesome. The joyful moments when they learn to obey commands, go outside where they are supposed to, and form a bond by just wanting to cuddle. That new puppy smell can’t help but inspire you. Like babies, they are a ton of work, but well worth it at the end of the day. A rescue dog is almost better: taking a broken animal and making them whole and able to trust again is priceless.
We get unconditional love. Even if you are mad as hell, and “kick the dog” (hopefully only verbally, not physically) that animal still loves you. He slinks over after the yelling stops, and tries to win back your favor. Just as you love being loved, so does your dog. My lab plays army dog, creeping over on his belly until his head is under my hand. Can you not pet him at that point? I don’t think so. A dog doesn’t ask questions or demand an explanation, but just offers instant forgiveness.
There is certain comfort in petting a dog. When things go south, or even when they are going well, there is nothing like the soothing motion of petting, and the resulting response of your dog to ease your mind. There are many times when I have been troubled, and the greatest comfort I have found has been from my dog. He doesn’t ask questions, talk back, or offer advice. He’s just there.
After a while, we tend to take things for granted. Remember your first car? Remember how much you loved it, and washed it all the time? Then remember when it stranded you on the side of the road, and instead of reminding yourself of the many days it carried you to work, you kicked the tires and called it stupid? Why? Because we are selfish, and cars can’t take care of themselves.
Pets are the same way. We love them, and at first taking care of them is fun. Then it gets to be a pain. The first time a dog pees on the carpet, it’s okay. He’s new. The fiftieth time, you question your sanity in getting a puppy, and whether you can train anything at all, because your kids aren’t turning out so well either. Then things work out, and the puppy becomes a dog, and the everyday is just that: everyday. He no longer gets treats for doing potty outside, only punishment if he doesn’t. Dog walking is a ‘chore’ and pooper scooping is a punishment your children cannot abide.
Until they get old, and you fear losing them. Then suddenly the everyday is no longer something you are guaranteed, and you remember why you loved this dog in the first place.
So why Stray Ally? Because I wanted to tell the story of a man who finds friendship and unconditional love in the face of a dog, when everything else is falling apart. And I wanted to tell the story of a remarkable dog, to remind us all of how remarkable our dogs really are. So go hug your Stray Ally. Grab them around the neck, go for a walk, or throw the ball a few extra times.
Never take for granted the time you have with your best friend.