WORDS BY BEN DUNGAN
I walk the streets at night. You can typically find me out there between the hours of 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. There’s not much going on at this time, as you’d probably expect. You can hear the crickets chirping and occasionally you’ll hear the faint sounds of vehicles driving up and down Highway 321.
I’m probably the only person outside at this hour. This is not because this is where I want to be, but rather because Asbury needs to be. Asbury is a 6-year-old English Pointer, named after Asbury Park, a city in New Jersey. He’s a 53-pound white dog with brown patches and splotches over his body. They say he’s a hunting dog, but the only thing he hunts these days is a place to lay his head.
That is, until it becomes the middle of the night. That’s when he needs to go outside to use the bathroom. I get it – when you need to go, you need to go. It’s just the timing of it all that just seems a bit inconvenient. For me. He doesn’t mind at all. He doesn’t have to wake up and go to work in the morning like the rest of us.
Before Asbury, there was Ginger, my feisty little shih tzu. She was much smaller in stature, but large in personality. With her, you’d never find me walking the streets in the middle of the night for her to use the bathroom. If she needed to go, she’d take care of it herself. She’d find her favorite spot in the house and just hit that.
I don’t know which is worse. At least Asbury tells me when he needs to go. Ginger would just sneak off and I’d hope and pray she’d hit at least one of the pee pads I had laid out for her.
Therein lies the problem – no matter how many pee pads you put down, there’s always an edge of the pad, which means there’s always a chance she could miss.
But that’s life with a dog. Just when you think you have all the answers, they change the questions. Each dog comes with its own set of questions. Before you go out and get a new dog, you need to forget everything you know about dogs. It’s a clean slate every time.
Dogs do what dogs do. Unless you’re Cesar Millan. And I am clearly not him.
Cesar Millan is a dog trainer that broke into the mainstream in 2004 with his TV show Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan. It was so popular that it ran for nine years and was nominated for two Emmy Awards. Cesar Millan was a household name. Or maybe I should say, he was a household name in my parent’s house.
My mom would always tell me about Cesar’s work with problem dogs. She’d say ‘Cesar says this’ and ‘Cesar says that’. I wanted to tell her to send him over so he could whip Ginger into shape.
But the reality is, he’d really be whipping me into shape. He may be billed as The Dog Whisperer, but deep down, he’s really The Human Whisperer. Dogs teach us so much, that sometimes we need someone like a Cesar Millan to show us that.
Cesar says, “you may not get the dog you want, but you always get the dog you need.”
Maybe dogs are put here on this earth to train us – to help us live a better life than we’re currently living.
Dogs age seven times faster than humans. We like to say “life is short”, but to them, life really is short. They just inherently know how to make every moment count.
Sometimes we need dogs to show us how to be more present – to live more fully in the moment. Maybe we need them to remind us the importance of forgiveness and moving on. Or just maybe, we need to be reminded to play at least once a day. Or to just stop and relax. Take a nap.
That’s what dogs do. And while they may also drag us around in the middle of the night, or have us cleaning up their messes around the house, they ultimately give us much more than they take.
They make us stop and smell the roses. Or in my case, the “deposit” they leave by the side of the road…in the middle of the night.
And we love them for it.