Zoo’ of dogs provides love, therapy


“Perhaps one central reason for loving dogs is that they take us away from this obsession with ourselves. When our thoughts start to go in circles, and we seem unable to break away, wondering what horrible event the future holds for us, the dog opens a window into the delight of the moment. To walk with a dog is to enter the world of the immediate. Our dog stares up into a tree, watching a squirrel – she is there and nowhere else.”

-Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, from Dogs Never Lie About Love

People who visit our home quite often have two similar comments: “I never knew you had so many dogs,” and “I can’t get over how calm they all are!”

Murphy, our aging English shepherd, is the queen of our place. Her serene nature has set the tone for the others who have followed in her remarkable footsteps.

Spanky is the snow-white Pekingese who loves everybody. His irrepressible nature is to bound toward visitors, brimming with the message, “Ah, you are just gonna LOVE me!”

He is joined by his somewhat snooty sidekick Tuki, and the sad, humorless Kiki, yet another Pekingese rescued just hours before euthanasia at four months of age because no one had been willing to plunk down the money for her at a pet shop.

Chantilly is the leader of the Westie pack. She is showing her age, too, which happens all too soon with the dogs who share our lives.

She started me in to the world of Westies, and she is joined by others we simply could not part with: Tacey, Larke and Candee.

From time to time there is a litter of puppies at some stage of development, being loved and lifted by arms happy to be filled with a joyous puppy.

“It’s great here!” one little girl shrieked recently. “Can we come back tomorrow?”

It is like a happy little zoo here, complete with well-established aquariums in several rooms.

Therapy. As my son Cort continues to fight to get better from chronic Lyme disease, the dogs and his aquariums have been a therapeutic part of his world.

Murphy senses when Cort is having a particularly bad day, and Spanky has developed this same sense. They stay near, looking toward him with anxious eyes, but they do not bring toys or demand his attention until he invites them to do so.

Old Jock. Perhaps no one was more blessed by a loyal dog than the Scottish man named Old Jock who died in 1858.

The day after Jock was buried, with very few humans to mourn his passing, his Skye terrier he called Bobby, began his graveyard vigil in the churchyard at Greyfriars Abbey in Edinburgh.

He was seen sleeping on his master’s grave every night for 14 years.

Though people tried to offer him a home, he refused to leave his master’s grave, sleeping there through summers and winters until his own death in 1872.

A fountain stands near the Greyfriars churchyard with a tribute to the “affectionate fidelity of Greyfriars Bobby” for his faithful lingering with his master.

Murphy would be that loyal, I have to believe it. Spanky, on the other hand, would be the one who hung around until he spotted someone with an ice cream cone walking by.

“Ice cream? Did you need a little help with that, mister? Let me show you some of my tricks, OK?”

And a new adventure would begin…


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.