My father and dogs

Floor time with Juju
My dad, on the floor with Pyrrha. He quickly learned that she was far less afraid of him the lower he was to the ground, and so down on the ground he got.

“My father… was a man who understood all dogs thoroughly and treated them like human beings.”

— Flann O’Brien in The Third Policeman

. . . . . . . . . . . .

My father is also just like the father from this Flann O’Brien quote, and today is his birthday, so I thought it would be fitting to honor my dad with a dog-centric birthday post.

With Juju and TT
The first time my parents met Pyrrha.

Growing up, Dad would help us kids fall asleep last night by telling us stories. Whether the stories were imaginary or from his own childhood, they almost always involved dogs as major characters. My favorite stories were about his childhood, which was spent on a farm in rural Indiana, surrounded by a menagerie of dogs and horses. His childhood sounded like a dreamy paradise to me, an animal-obsessed and dog-less kid.

Dad has always had great instincts with dogs, even though he’s never read a single animal behavior book or taken a dog to a training class. Some people, I’ve found, are just like that; scientific training or no, their instincts are almost always right when it comes to communicating with dogs. I feel like I’ve had to learn my way into being a successful canine communicator, but Dad was born with this skill.

Currently, his true dog love is Dublin, our neighbor’s chocolate lab. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you may be familiar with Dublin, as Pyrrha gets lots of play-time with her when we visit my parents.

A recent photo Dad texted us of him running errands with Dublin.
A recent photo Dad texted us of him running errands with Dublin.

He’s shaped Dublin into a masterful disc dog, a loyal companion, and a running buddy. Dublin is as devoted to him as he is to her.

One of our favorite recent family stories was told by my disgruntled mother. Dad had just come home from a long business trip, and Mom was really looking forward to sitting down and talking with him and spending some quality time together. When she asked him if they could talk, he said, “I’m sorry, I can’t; I have a lot of important stuff I have to do now.” She was sad, but she said she understood. Ten minutes later, as she was passing through their bedroom, she stopped and looked into the neighbor’s backyard. There, on the trampoline, was my father, lying down next to Dublin, stroking her head and talking to her. This reunion with Dublin was, apparently, the “important stuff” he had to do.

“I never thought that the woman I’d be jealous of would be the neighbor’s dog,” Mom said.

Pack walk
Dad and me trying to wrangle four dogs on a walk.

I’ve certainly inherited my Dad’s dog-craziness, and I bear that trait as a badge of honor. He, in turn, is as dog crazy as his parents were, and as his mother’s parents before her. (The photo of my great-great grandmother with her dogs on a farm is one of my most treasured family photos.)

When we talk on the phone, our first and last topics are the dogs: Dublin, Pyrrha, Eden; what we’ve seen on dog walks; funny or weird things the dogs have done lately; intriguing dogs we’ve seen around the neighborhood. He likes to joke with me that if we ever have kids, he’ll always love the dogs more.

Pyrrha and Jak

Happy birthday, Dad! Thanks for being the best, and for giving me with this strong inheritance of dog craziness. I love you!

Does dog-craziness run in your family? Where do you think your love of dogs comes from?


10 thoughts on “My father and dogs

  1. Oh and to answer your questions: caring for animals is something genetic in my family… I descend from a family of farmers, so people who know instinctively know their way around dogs, cats, horses, cows, pigs, …
    I grew up with lots of animals at home: dogs, cats, chickens and other birds, rabbits and as a young girl I spent hours taking care of my uncle’s horses. I am very thankful that my childhood was one in which I was always surrounded by animals and in which I have learned how to communicate with them and care for them. I just cannot imagine myself living without animals at any point really. To me they are such an enrichment in life.
    I don’t consider myself to be only dog-crazy, but animal-crazy in general. 😉

  2. This is probably my favorite post. I love the pictures and I love your Dad. I’m laughing that the chocolate lab is the neighbors dog – LOL

  3. Aw this is fantastic! How lucky you are to have a dad like him to learn from. My parents are definitely not dog lovers – we had a dog growing up but it was definitely for the kids and it was a Shih Tzu because my mom can’t deal with shedding and didn’t want a big dog. My mom probably likes dogs more than my dad though who is just… not an animal person. Somehow even with them as my parents, my first word was “doggy” and I’ve been obsessed with animals since day one. They are both very accepting of my “lifestyle” with dogs now and will come and watch my trials and are fine with me bringing all the dogs over to their house to visit, even if they jokingly complain about them. That story about your dad coming home and going to see the dog is so funny!

  4. Happy Bday to your dad-so cool to hear his ‘dog story’

    Side note: have you heard of this online community called WOOF Support for reactive dogs? I just came across them today, although I follow some of the blogs who host it so I’m not sure how I’ve missed it thus far…thought of you and that you might want to be a part of this:


  5. A lovely post – my father also has a very special spot for Tala – as he did when we had our first family dog – Lyric – the Irish Wolfhound. She actually was very important for my bond with my father as we used to always look forward to going on long weekend walks where we usually drove to a national park and then took a several hour walk – just the three of us having long chats. I love the old photo of your great great grandmother. I need to try to get my father to dig up a photo we have of my Irish great grandmother posing with her two Great Danes!

  6. Abby, here’s another thing we have in common: dog-loving fathers! I grew up with a GSD, Sali, and was sad when she passed. My dad, however, was devastated. That dog was so loyal and devoted to him. More than ten years after our dog’s passing, we stood in the garage together, preparing for family to come into town for my sister’s wedding. I said to him, “Doesn’t it feel like Sali should run through her right now with a ball in her mouth?” His whole face clouded over and he said, “I don’t want to talk about it. It’s too sad.” I was touched and a bit tickled that this stoic man still gets choked up about the true dog love of his life. It wasn’t until I raised a dog on my own and experienced that type of bond did I realize what he had been feeling.

    We also talk about dogs all the time, and he loves training them. He’s the first dog-whisperer I ever met. It’s fun and special to share this love for dogs with him.

  7. Belated happy birthday to your dad!

    My parents are NOT dog people, so it’s been hilarious to see them get attached to Silas. I left him overnight with them one night last week. When I got home my Dad proudly reported that he and Silas took a nap together both days we were gone. My in-laws are dog people, and they (having some basis for what “regular” dogs act like) have actually had more trouble winning Silas over.

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