Dog-Daze of Summer (on loving man’s best friend)


Let’s face it—animals are amazing, especially the way their gaze penetrates.

Dogs do this more profoundly than most other pets.  Their eyes window us so well, mirror a place so profoundly and unfathomably human.

my dog Ralph's penetrating gaze

My dog Ralph does this for me—makes me feel, makes me heal—

—Makes me more.

He makes me better, fuller, brighter.  He makes me smile.

And his smile speaks to me in a place I don’t otherwise listen to. 

(Yes, I swear—he seems to smile.)

smiling Ralph (and Lucy) waiting to see our vet in Haiti

A terrier mix, Ralph will be eight this month, so we’re celebrating in a way, and Sara’s telling again the story of how she found him at the pound in southern Georgia, when he was eight months old.

Ralph's adoption papers

How he was lost and hit by a car a week and a half after that.  How it took several days to find him—his hip and pelvis shattered.  How Sara carried him for months, till he learned to walk again.

letter Sara wrote when Ralph was found

We’re reminiscing about how he brought us together—five years ago.

In 2006 Sara was directing her NGO’s response to the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia, while I was working in Lexington as an artist-in-residence. These employment realities brought us together, my needing to supplement my measly artist’s income by pet sitting and Sara’s needing to travel while at the same time caring for her dog.

dog-sitting Ralph in 2006 (nephew Sam, Kathy, Ralph)

Sara, Kathy, and Ralph in October 2006

When I look at Ralph now, knowing I fell in love with him before I loved my own partner, it seems I continue to learn from him.  I grow.  I don’t know what.  I only know that there is more of me—that I am somehow increased—and in a good way.  Not ego.  Soul.

Ralph when we lived in Vietnam

I don’t know how dogs do this—how they perform this magic—how they wizard their way into us—so Oz—so Emerald City –ruby slipper—dearest of dear.

Has your dog done this to you?

Have you been dog-dazed this summer?

(Note:  To read a post about my misadventure moving Ralph to Vietnam and the less-than-wonderful night we spent together in South Korea–“An unfortunate incident involving the international trafficking of canines and what I haven’t learned since then“–click here.)

36 thoughts on “Dog-Daze of Summer (on loving man’s best friend)

  1. Our little Tallulah (cat) died 3 years ago. I still miss her every day. It is not really practical for us to have a cat as we travel a fair bit, but I saw a beautiful Abyssinian kitten today and I think I want her. I just have to figure a way to make it work.

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    • Oh, Debra, I love cats too! I had my Tashi from the time she was 7 weeks to 17 years. She was the love of my life for nearly two decades. It amazes me how these little creatures can care for us so unconditionally. It nearly killed me when she died. I hope you can figure a way to get the kitten. How wonderful that would be!

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  2. What a wonderful tribute to Ralph. Both my dogs have entered my heart deeply. Which is why I currently face a huge struggle trying to find housing that will accept them. “Give away your dogs” I am told, but that is like giving away a huge chunk of your heart, and a someone who knows your soul better than you do. The other night my older dog, Lizzy, decided I was staying up too late and indicated clearly that it was time for me to GO TO BED. I obeyed. 😉 Great post Kathy.

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    • Years ago I had a Maltese named Lizzy–such a cutie! No, you can’t give away your dogs, but it can be difficult to find a place to live with them when you rent. And you are so right–in many ways they know us better than we know ourselves! Lizzy knew you needed som rest!

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    • Years ago I had a Maltese named Lizzy–such a cutie! No, you can’t give away your dogs, but it can be difficult to find a place to live with them when you rent. And you are so right–in many ways they know us better than we know ourselves! Lizzy knew you needed som rest!

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  3. Ralph is precious. On good days, I feel this way about my Scout. On bad days (maybe like today? When we’re paying for a new door because she felt like chewing?), I wonder if she’s out to destroy me 🙂

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    • I understand the frustration of behavioral problems. Neither of our dogs is well-behaved. Ralph is aggressive toward dogs he doesn’t know, and Lucy has an obnoxious bark! But we adore them nonetheless. Good luck with the chewing, Tori!

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  4. Funny you should write about dogs and their gazes. The other day I was hanging out with a friend whose golden labrador Elmo is the most adorably friendly one I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I was having a ball interacting with him, his sheer exuberance was so infectious….I realize it changes something inside you, their warmth and sincerity spills over.
    While I was scratching his ears and fending off his extremely slobbery tongue, there came a point when he just turned around and looked straight into my eyes. It was sheer magic! It was like he was communicating to me, letting me know he LIKED me, and it made me soooo happy !
    So I think I love dogs, though I have a cat….but I love his quieter ways too 🙂

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    • How funny, Munira! That sounds like a wonderful canine interaction! I have a bit of a problem with too much slobber, but Elmo sounds like a sweetie! I understand what you mean by the magic–a dog’s eyes can be so amazing. But I have to confess to loving cats, as well.

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  5. I. Love. Dogs!! I think there is something about a dog’s unconditional love and acceptance that makes life seem more magical. How sweet that Ralph brought you and Sara together, too! 🙂

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    • I know–isn’t that a sweet part of the story? We figure that without Ralph we might not be together. I remember at least one post you wrote about your dog, Dana and the unconditional love that you shared. How dear!

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    • How great to hear from you. I can’t thank you enough for reading and taking the time to comment. You are right. Dogs are like babies with 4 legs and a lot more fur! It was great having you today. I hope you will come back again soon!

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    • Oh, yes, Charles, I remember that you have coyotes. I think they are canine-like, at least, right? Aren’t they a kind of wild dog? I would love to have coyotes, but we live in the middle of the city! Alas————–

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  6. My cat Mage brought me a lizard – clearly he doesen’t think I have enough pets –
    or enough to eat as he brings me slain mice as well. Rockey is a green Anole
    I found Mage harrassing one night, I thought the mangled little guy was just about
    dead so I left him for mother nature to find, in the morning he was still out there.
    He started running in circles when I got close, as one of his eyes was swolloen
    shut, and neck cocked as if broken. I made a place for him in an old empty fish
    tank and filled it with live plants. I thought I give him pretty place to die but he
    surprised me. Now he is twice as big and rather fat, with no sign of his previous
    injuries. I can’t bring myself to let him go cause I no Mage will finnish him. It’s strange how much that cat can love me, and treat everything else like a toy for

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    • This is an amazing story. And how wonderful that the lizard survived. Pets are so, so funny. It’s great having you visit my blog today. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I hope you’ll come back—————————

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    • Exactly Sandy! They are, indeed, furry little angels. I think his bringing us together is one of the sweetest things about this boy–but, goodness, there’s a lot to love about him. Hope you have a great weekend!

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  7. thank you for this. I too fell for Ralph immediately when you brought him to Haiti. So soothing, calming and just a good ‘ol boy! Miss him.

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    • Hi Rachel–how great to hear from you! Sara says you recently got back in the US. How does it feel to be home? How much longer till the baby arrives? We miss you, Rachel. Big hugs from Sara and me–and from Ralph and Lucy, as well!

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  8. Such a lovely story, Kathy. 🙂

    The cats I’ve had throughout the years have taught me a lot, and have helped me grow. One in particular — CJ the Wonder Cat — was my best friend (second only to my husband). I lost her a few years ago (a red-tailed hawk took her). I didn’t think I’d get another cat after that, but then Izzy and Bella showed up, needing a home, so we gave them one. I’m so glad we did.

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    • Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment. I will have to check out your blog! It’s great that your dog helped get your blog started. I hope you’ll come back again soon————————

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  9. I adopted my Kodiak from the SPCA as an older dog in December 2010. His previous owners had to move and could not (or would not) take him with them. He is the love of my life, firmly bonded to me and forever grateful I took him from that place. I will be needing to find a new home by October 1st but will not consider leaving him behind. The unconditional love and joy dogs bring to our lives is so wonderful I cannot remember what my life was like before he came along. (Okay, yes I can but have no desire to.)

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    • I’m happy to hear Kodiak brings you so much joy! I can completely understand. And I too could never imagine moving without my dogs. We even moved ours with us to Vietnam and Haiti. Thanks so much for stopping by. It was great having you!

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    • Ah, Mark, you are so sweet! I will definitely tell Ralph the extra treat is from you. I too could easily be cat-dazed–I was for more than 17 years. My cat Tashi was the love of my life! Hope you have a great week, Mark!

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  10. We had our dog put to sleep 3 summers ago, about this time of year. She was 14 years old and had suffered a stroke. She would not recover so we had to let her go. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do and I miss her so badly to this day. I have often thought of allowing another dog into my life, but just haven’t been able to bring myself to do it. No doubt, our furry family members are special.

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  11. A lovely story, Kathy! I especially like the bit ” . . . Makes me more. He makes me better, fuller, brighter. He makes me smile.” That’s exactly what Rosie does for me. She’s my constant companion, and I missed her SO much when we were away in the Kalahari.

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  12. Pingback: Travels with Dogs, When Blogging Buddies Meet, Driving Toward Irene, and Happy Feet « Woman Wielding Words

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