A headline in last week’s Washington Post jumped out at me: “Dogs are Bad for the Planet” screamed the story, accompanied by an image of the snouts of two dogs preparing to chomp down on planet Earth.
It turns out the article was about feral dogs in Brazil and how they’re out of control and endangering other creatures in the area by killing off other animals.
It may be true that dogs can be destructive, especially untrained ones – but bad for the planet?
Hardly. They’ve got it all wrong. Dogs actually make the world a better place!
In fact, it’s time to recognize “National Dog Day” – an annual celebration every August 26th designed to encourage canine ownership along with raising awareness of the plight of man’s best friend.
With the exception of graduate school and a few years prior to getting married, I’ve been living with a dog almost all of my life.
As a little kid, I thought everybody had one. The sounds of our neighborhood included plenty of barking mutts, especially our next-door neighbor’s basset hound, Maggie, whose big ears dragged on the ground. She howled every time she wanted to come inside the house.
Like so many other people, our dogs were just part of the everyday rhythm of living. As somebody once appropriately observed, “Dogs aren’t like members of the family. They are members of your family.”
My brothers and sister and I will never forget our furry friends, including Snoopy, Daisy and Patriot. Since beginning to raise my own family we’ve enjoyed the companionship of Shep, Macy, Sawyer and now Shadow.
I’m no expert on our four-legged buddies, but having owned many, including our current Great Dane, I would suggest that the following things about dogs are true:
1. Puppies are really cute but also a whole lot of really hard work. Yet, Peanuts creator Charles Schulz was right. “Happiness is a warm puppy.”
2. Speaking of young canines, it’s less painful for a Red Cross worker to draw blood than to have an 8 week-old dog bite you with those sharp puppy teeth.
3. Somehow, your dog is always smarter than your neighbor’s dog. And better looking, too.
4. If we were as loyal to our friends as our dogs are to us we’d have a lot more good friends than we do.
5. One of the best characteristics of dogs is that unlike people, they don’t seem to hold a grudge, at least for very long.
6. If you have a dog that loves to play fetch, he finds the first toss of the day just as exciting as the last.
7. There is no perfect breed of dog -- only the breed that’s perfect for you.
8. If every person were as happy to see their spouse as a dog is to see their owner each day, the divorce rate would plummet to record lows in America.
9. Mutts are wonderfully hearty and resilient. If you rescue one from a shelter they’ll pay you back the rest of their life.
10. The lifespan of a dog that makes it into “old-age” is still way too short.
11. A dog’s perennially good mood proves the truth that things usually work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out.
12. The sight of a sleeping dog curled up in front of a roaring fire on a cold winter’s day somehow makes you feel better about the fate of the world.
13. It’s almost impossible to leave the veterinarian’s office these days without spending close to $100. But a good and caring vet is worth every penny.
14. I’ve heard several people say this and would probably agree: The average dog is nicer than the average person.
15. Given what dogs put up with and how much a part of our families they are, I somehow feel guilty feeding them only dog food, even though I know most human food wouldn’t be good for them.
16. Seeing a stray dog anywhere and at any time is a sad sight.
17. Dogs and children go together like chocolate and peanut butter or butter on a bagel.
18. Somebody once observed that if dogs could talk they probably wouldn’t be as popular or as fun as they are – but I’m still curious what they would sound like if they did.
19. Dogs possess one of the secrets to stress reduction – they live in the moment. They don’t worry about yesterday or fear what’s going to happen tomorrow.
20. An aging dog is a good reminder that even the best things in life don’t last forever.
21. Having to put a dog to sleep makes you want to never have another dog. Fortunately, the joy a dog brings supersedes the emotional pain that comes with their passing and most of us almost always get another dog.
So, here’s to man’s best friend and all the great memories and joys our dogs have brought us through the years. If you’re thinking about getting one, I say go for it. Pay a visit to your local animal shelter. Look up the local rescue group online for your favorite breed.
To paraphrase President Harry Truman, if you want a friend, get a dog – and you’ll soon realize that being a friend to one will quickly become one of life’s greatest pleasures.
So, dogs are not only not bad for the planet – they’re actually exactly what we need in order to help make it a more loving and hospitable place for everybody.