Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Dog By Any Other Name

Today the first family is officially welcoming Bo, the Portugese Water Spaniel to the White House.

The pictures show a puppy with a multi-colored lei on who is very cute. We all know the story that President Obama promised the girls after the campaign that they would be allowed a puppy. And after the election Obama said publically he wanted a "mutt" making an analogy to himself. Then the Obama's found out that one of their daughters has an allergy which did put some restrictions on the dog choices.

I know a lot of people are worried that now people will want the Portugese Water Spaniels because the first family has one the way Dalmatians become popular when a new version of 101 Dalmations comes out. My husband is one of these people who wonders if that phenomenon will occur. The same debate began ranging when Stump won the Westminster Kennel Club show this year. Would the sussex spaniels suddenly become all the rage?

Our dog Charlie, is a rescue. I would never have had him come into our lives any other way. He was aloof and distrustful. He kept his distance. Shortly after adopting him, I had surgery, and then when Charlie saw that things could be tough, really tough, and we weren't going to give him up, he began to follow me everywhere. He opened himself up and bonded. It occurred to us at that point that some of the other families that had tried to "adopt" Charlie (his foster mother said he had been returned to her four times before we adopted him) probably did not give him enough time to warm up. We were willing to stick it out longer and found he was as much a part of us as we were of him.

Our dog Gilligan, on the other hand, is a pure-bred beagle with papers. We bought him at age six weeks. Gilligan is bound to us for different reasons. We are all he ever knew. He was cool with another dog joining the family, he had many reservations when babies started coming home. Now, he has a 19-month-old "master" who bosses him around and tells him he is not allowed to sleep in this spot or that he should take off the muzzle we put on the dog in order to clean his ears because he snaps otherwise (as if the dog would not take the muzzle off if given opposable thumbs and the oppurtunity). Gilligan is a crotchety old almost eight-year-old, but he was perfect training for having a baby and sleepless nights, just at an accelerated rate. Gilligan also, as a pure-bred, suffers epileptic seizures. Little did we know just how that would prepare us for parenthood as well and the unexpected tests it brings.

It is obvious from Bo's arrival at the White House that the girls are smitten with him and the President and Mrs. Obama are thrilled that their daughters are so happy. Dogs, no matter what breed, or how they come into our lives, offer us a possibility of love so pure, so freely given it is hard to dismiss. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said, "Dear God, Please help me to become the person my dog already thinks I am." Even without pregnancy hormones, it would make me tear up. When my cousin Andy was being diagnosed with a brain tumor, he had a dream and the message "dogevol" was given to him. "Love God." When I look at that through the eyes I have as a dog owner, I realize that God loves us so much, he gave us not only His son that we may have eternal life, but an animal whose name is God spelled backwards to help us remember just how much He loves us.

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