Dogs do a lot for us. They protect. Work. Entertain. But the greatest thing a dog does for a human is teach. That might not make sense to some, and I should know: There was a time I didn’t get it either.
Four years ago, I came home to a greyhound named Fortress, whom my wife decided that “we” wanted. My reaction wasn’t positive and it carried on for weeks. I didn’t really like him and I didn’t think he liked me until one day the two of us became friends.
We were in my truck, and Fortress stuck his big head between me and my wife, looking ahead with a huge grin. It was the first time I’d really noticed his smile, and it felt like we were Han Solo and Chewbacca on the Millennium Falcon. Since then, we’ve been buddies.
Fortress was from West Virginia. By the time he had come to us via the Southern Alberta Greyhound Association, he had dodged euthanasia twice, bouncing around from several homes. Despite his gypsy life, Fortress treated everyone as if they were friendly, approaching strangers without trepidation. He taught me not to judge and that a smile went a long way with someone new.
Fortress taught me perseverance. His prey drive led to training, headaches and vet bills but they paid off when we could trust him to make friends with anyone. He needed us to stick with him and he paid us back by always being the best he could.
Having fun with him reminded me of the joy of play. The child-like abandon of running, throwing things and laughing. He taught me not to take myself so seriously.
Finally, I learned the power of unconditional love that comes through triumph, laughter and care. He taught me what it means to have someone depend on you and what it means to depend on someone. His companionship was the greatest gift he could have given, but it created such an appreciation for what he did for me.
Last week, we said goodbye to Fortress after an injury revealed his body was failing. All I could think of afterwards were the things he showed me about life and how to live it.
My dog truly made me a better person.
So when you are dreading the nightly walk with your pooch, just take a moment to think about how they enrich your life and how much they love you for it. You never know what you might learn.