“My father… was a man who understood all dogs thoroughly and treated them like human beings.”
— Flann O’Brien in The Third Policeman
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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?