We Adopted a Dog and a Friend

When the author and his wife adopted a dog, they gained friendship, trust, loyalty, and companionship.

| January/February 1989

  • adopted a dog - Carolyn, David, and Amigo in the woods
    Carolyn and David either adopted a dog or a mountain bear. Up to the end of his days, Amigo enjoyed spending time in the great outdoors with his friends.

  • adopted a dog - Carolyn, David, and Amigo in the woods

When Carolyn and I returned home after an absence of many months, he was waiting at our cabin’s door. His name, we were told by the kind neighbors who had rescued and been feeding him, was Amigo. There sat a 5, perhaps 6-year-old, golden retriever-Gordon setter mix, overweight, unkempt, and shaggy. A fat black mutt.

It wouldn’t exactly be wrong to say we adopted a dog, but it was more Amigo adopted us — on the spot — and set about sweeping Carolyn off her feet. They soon became inseparable.

It took a little longer for me. It’s difficult to offer love when no love is returned, and Amigo shied away from me at first, cringing when I stooped to pet him, or slinking off at my approach. There must have been cause for this odd behavior somewhere in his mysterious past (we heard rumors that he’d once been shot), because it wasn’t just me Amigo feared and avoided, but all men.

Still, patience and kindness earn trust, and Amigo and I gradually came to be friends, good friends.

This was a new experience for me, though I’d owned several dogs before. The first was a cocker spaniel given to me by an aunt when I was 5 and which, in typical rug-brat fashion, I bothered mercilessly; it eventually died young of distemper. Next came a spitz my father brought home when I was 12, and we kept him boarded into a corner of the garage and generally neglected; it eventually made an escape. I kept a couple of beagles as rabbit hounds. The last of that unfortunate lot came and went more than 20 years ago, and while I had “owned” them all, I had allowed none to become a real friend, much less part of the family. I, like the majority of dog owners, was simply ignorant of the possibilities and moral responsibilities.

Unlike cats, dogs are totally dependent upon their masters. Cats (with the exception of lions) evolved as lone hunters, a circumstance strongly encouraging independence. Dogs, however, have always been pack animals (with the exception of foxes), instinctively craving companionship and the guidance of a competent leader. While a domestic cat can entertain and, in part, even feed itself, a dog relies solely on its master for sustenance — both material and emotional. Having a dog is a special responsibility for which, as with having children, few of us are properly qualified or inclined.

10/13/2013 7:59:38 AM

A deeply moving tribute to your dog and the joy he gave you. Thank you for sharing and putting into words just how special the man - dog relationship can be. It brought back memories of my own dog of 14 years, who died just over a year ago. Deeply missed, never ever to be forgotten.

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