While I was in veterinary school at Michigan State University, I owned a dog. She was no ordinary dog, but the most intelligent dog I ever owned. I named her Brenna, and she was a Black Labrador Retriever I purchased as a puppy from a local breeder who raised bird dogs. When I picked her up, the breeder told me there were two types of Black Labs: those bred for beauty to go to shows and those bred for intelligence. Brenna was both to me.
I was thrilled to take her home and immediately started on her housebreaking. Brenna was an extremely quick learner. She had the potty training down in no time flat, and I commenced with simple tricks. I soon trained her to walk outside on a leash and to stay. As she grew older, she was trained in basic obedience, and mastered that with ease. She was so well-trained that I could tell her to stay, and she would do so even with multiple distractions. Always her eyes intently focused on me while I would walk about a half-mile away. I would then simply give her a signal with the rise of my arm, and she would run as fast as she could, come around behind me and sit in a heel position. She would low-crawl, jump over obstacles, and swim like a fish.
Brenna was also more human than any dog I owned previously. She knew my every emotion, and she acted appropriately in response. When I was happy she was ecstatic. When I was sad or got hurt, she would immediately come try to comfort me. She brought my shoes to me, she greeted me with joy when I came home from classes, and she knew all the dog tricks in the book. When she was about three years old, I left her with someone to take care of her temporarily. While she was there, she ran in front of a car, and died instantly. I was not happy to learn of it to say the least. I did not lose a dog that day, I lost my good friend and companion. I will never forget Brenna. I thought I would never experience anything like her for the rest of my life. Well, that was before I had kids.
Kids also provide comfort at the right time and are more than happy to get your shoes. My son Tristan lay in my bed early yesterday morning. As he lay there, he grabbed and held my hand for a few minutes before he realized I had a bandage on a finger. He whispered with concern “Daddy is hurt!” I told him my finger got hurt, and I had to put a bandage on it. He rolled closer to me in the bed, and whispered softly “I am sorry you hurt daddy.” He gave me a big hug, patted me on the back, and held me for a few seconds. I kissed him and told him I would be okay now. It reminded me of how Brenna would comfort me with her concerned brown eyes and little licks she would do with the tip of her tongue where I hurt. If I was hurt emotionally, she would put her head against mine, and sigh softly.
My daughter Keira shows much of the same concern for my well-being. She will come to me and sit next to me and say “No sad, Daddy! No sad!” I will smile, and tell her I am better and not sad, and she will smile and run off to play again. Keira often is the one who greets me with exuberance at the door when I come home from a long day at work. “Daddy home! Daddy home!” she screams with excitement as she grabs my leg and jumps up and down. I will lean down and she will kiss and hug me over and over. I sit down on a chair and she unties my boots and helps me out of my socks, and puts them away in the proper location. I do not think dogs can untie boots, or at least I did not get to that trick with Brenna.
Tristan and Keira love to play with me. Often they will run around the house screaming with joy as I follow them playing “Getcha” or “Grumpy Old Troll”. When I do get them, we wrestle around on the ground as they giggle and say “You got me, Daddy! You got me!” I roughhoused with Brenna also after she let me catch her. She loved it as much as the kids do today. I think roughhousing is a daddy thing, something special I do with the kids, and they love every minute of it.
My kids are good kids and do pretty much everything I ask. They have their moments when they do not come when called, when they refuse to sit and stay, and when they will not roll over and go to sleep. Brenna was not perfect either, so I will not give my kids a stick for it. The best thing I did for Brenna was to be consistent, and perhaps that is the best thing for my kids also. Who knew dog training would work with kids also.
Brenna was a great dog, but she did not compare to the love expressed now from my children. They have words; words to express how much they love me and to show their concern for when I am hurt. It is these verbal words of love and admiration that cannot be expressed by dogs, not even by Brenna. Someday I know the kids will beg me to get them a dog, and I will, another Black Lab no doubt. As for me, I have a lot of tricks to teach these kids in the mean time.