Saturday, November 14, 2009

Journal #2 Saturday November 14--My Time with Shayna

Often I stay at the homes of traveling friends in order to care for their pets, many of them dogs, and the occasional cat.  These dog-loving travelers are, like me, averse to leaving their canine friends in unfamiliar boarding facilities. We are sensitive to the fact that dogs feel emotions deeply, and without the benefit of language, these creatures can't  really understand why we are leaving them, why they are lonely and away from home, and whether we will return to them at all.

By keeping the dogs at home, with someone (like me) who has become a familiar presence in their lives, living with them in their own surroundings, the animals remain more calm,  more healthy, better-off emotionally, and able to adjust to the absence of their primary loved ones.

Shayna is a sweet, intelligent, and amazing Border Collie, 11 years old, who I have known and cared for for nealy six years.  We know each others' routines, we eat supper together, we enjoy long walks, and we play rough-and-tumble, she with unwavering energy, while I just try to keep up with her. 

The family members who entrust me with the life and safety of this beloved friend, not to mention their home and all their belongings, have been generous to me as though I were a member of the household.  After an amazingly busy week, it will do me good to refresh myself in the company of a simple creature who wants nothing more than to play with me and show her fierce loyalty and affection.

And that is what it is really all about. Dogs (and cats) remind us of the simplicity of living, of life's immediacy, and that there is nothing more tender and soothing to the constant blows to our self-identity than the uncomplicated, direct, and simple love we receive from these creatures.  

I am among those who have no doubts that animals feel emotion, and that they show us their love in many ways: the squealing, joyful greeting (or the hound-howls of joy) when we come home; the unrestrained and helpless wagging of the tail at the sight of us or the sound of our voice; the face licks, the paws on our laps; the willingness to perform for us, to make us laugh; the entreaties for food, water, treats, hugs, and belly rubs; their pride at being with us on our walks; the energy of their play; the sudden calm at our bidding; the innocence of their simply being themselves, often to our great amusement; the cat who jumps on our shoulders and allows itself to be carried; the dog who sits attentively near us, looking on with curious concern, when life may cause us to shed tears......

Friends of mine who are otherwise reluctant to open up, who are guarded because of the betrayals they have known at the hands of their friends, or maybe who just have difficulty with common expressions of emotion and affection, confess to me that they miss their animals more than anything else when they are away.  I understand these people.....maybe as much as I understand the nuances of my canine friends.


  1. Brilliant! A very poignant description of the love and devotion afforded us by our dogs and the people that know and appreciate it for all it's worth. Having recently boarded our pets, I know all too well the how heavy-hearted and lonely I felt without their constant stream of enthusiasm and silly antics. If only there had been someone like you to entrust them too, I would have had every confidence that they were getting the best of care by a fellow dog-lover who was sensitive to their needs. Your friends (and Shayna) are quite fortunate indeed to have you!

  2. Tom, this is something I love to do, especially for the sake of the animals. I would certainly jump at the chance to care for your dogs, if our circumstances allowed me to do so. You might be surprised at how many pet-sitters in your vicinity will care for your dogs in your home. There's even a new association, Pet Sitters International, that provides lists of folks who will offer these services.
    You are obviously a very loving pet person yourself.