I was blowing the dust off of some of my Grandma’s old photo albums the other day and looking at pictures of that little boy I used to be. One in particular caught my eye. I was smiling, sitting in a corner chair by an old bookcase, hugging my best friend in the whole world. That friend was my dog, Duke.
was a strange name for such a little dog. He couldn’t have weighed more
than 20 lbs.He was a mixed breed with a light brown coat. He had
long legs with white paws and a white stripe that ran up his nose and
head. He was my constant companion from the moment I could walk until
I was ten years old. He curled up with me in that chair when I read
books. When I went outside to play cowboy he would herd our cats up
the trees and then walk off looking proud of himself. When He was
hungry he would carry his food dish in his mouth and drop it at my
Mom’s feet. He would sleep on top of my bed covers at night and when I
had the mumps he refused to leave my bed until I got better.
learned a lot from Duke over the years too. I learned a nap in the
middle of the afternoon could be good for you. I learned that
sometimes you need to growl a little to get your point across. I
learned that you can never give or get too many hugs and kisses. I
learned that the simplest dinner can be delicious when you eat it
with gusto. I learned that life can be good when lived with love and
joy. Sadly, I also learned that life in this world is short especially
if you are a dog.
I lost Duke way too soon in my young life. Being an
adventurous soul, Duke would often let his nose lead him away from
home. Usually he would return days later hungry and exhausted. When I
was ten, however, he went off one day and never returned. I cried and my
Dad and I went on long walks searching for him but to no avail.
Since I lost Duke I have had many dogs in my life. All of them have been
special. All of them have been unique. All of them have taught me to
open my heart and love more. I hope to see them all again one day in
Heaven. I would like to ask God too why our dogs’ lives here are so
short and ours so long. I think maybe that I do know at least part of
the answer. If one of the reasons we are here is to learn how to love
then our best teachers certainly wouldn’t need to be here as long as
we would. May you learn much, love well, and live your live with the
heart of a dog.
Joseph J. Mazzella