DogsDoug Kelly

A Dog Opened My Heart

My wife Kelly has a new t-shirt that says, “I like animals more than people.”

At first I laughed when seeing it, then wondered if others might think that means she doesn’t like people. But it doesn’t – she likes people too, she just likes animals more.

As we went here and there in Clearwater, many folks reacted to it and every single one agreed with the message. Some even wanted to know how they can get the same shirt.

There’s a strong basis for why many people feel the same as Kelly. Dogs and cats don’t post disrespectful and sometimes vicious emails on social media. As adults, animals don’t ask their parents for things they should be able to do for themselves.

While some animals do harm to humans, it’s usually in self-defense or being in their territory. Animals that harm other animals almost always is a case of hunting for food or territorial dominance.

Am I a tree hugger? No. At the same time, I’ve changed my viewpoint on living things in general. I used to go out of my way to step on an ant; now I go out of my way not to. I used to treat the family pets as things living only parallel to me – I didn’t harm them, but I also didn’t attempt to actually know them.

All that changed 15 years ago when Kelly brought home a puppy we named Cocoa.

After a lifetime of having dogs and cats as pets, for the first time I got to know the puppy. And I discovered something that to this day makes me regret not having done so most of my life – a real connection to a different species. Whoever labeled dogs “man’s best friend” wasn’t just wuffing.

After only a month or two, you could not have separated me from Cocoa with a crowbar.

We connected soulfully with an unbreakable love and bond. As the years moved on, we became attuned to each other. I knew when she was hungry, when to open the door and let her into our fenced backyard, and other body language and expressions.

I’d discovered a treasure, a friendship as solid as one could ever expect from any human being along with unconditional love.

Cocoa would walk in front of a bear to save me, and what surprised even me was that I would walk in front of a bear to save her, albeit hopefully with a .500 magnum S&W in hand.

I taught Cocoa a few tricks, but Cocoa taught me much more. This awakening spread from Cocoa to animals in general. I used to hunt deer, squirrels and birds, now I feed them and savor the experiences as trust grows. They sense I mean them no harm. I don’t hunt anymore, but this doesn’t mean I’m now on a crusade against hunting. Instead it’s just a personal change in how I look at other living creatures.

Kelly and I enjoyed playing with Cocoa, petting her, doing walks at local parks, and considering her as part of our family and not merely “a pet.”  When Cocoa died, we wept uncontrollably.

As the grief subsided, we acquired another puppy which we named Amber. She’s also become a heart-to-heart best friend. While Cocoa and Amber shared all the wonderful traits one expects from man’s best friend, I enjoyed the differences in their personalities.

Check out YouTube videos about pet rescues and adoptions of animals at shelters. You’ll discover how almost every variety of four-legged species and even birds can form a clear bond with humans who treat them with kindness. It’s inspiring and heartwarming to witness an animal that’s been neglected or mistreated to respond so wonderfully with love and affection.

If you’re a pet owner whose world is richer because of it, you can relate to everything I’ve written. But if not, take my advice and begin to really know your pet. You’ll still love humankind, but you’ll discover that dogs in particular become everything you wanted and everything you didn’t know you needed.


Related articles:

Amber Visits All 110 Parks and Rec Facilities in Clearwater

Amber Cam on Edgewater Drive



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