By Lori Symmonds
"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion." – Author Unknown
When I come home from work feeling exhausted and I'm met at the door my two fuzzy faces, happy wiggling dogs, I smile and sometimes laugh out loud at their whole-body enthusiasm. The dogs get me up off the couch to take walks and play ball on days that I otherwise wouldn't go outside. They encourage me (meaning sit-and-stare-intensely-into-my-face) to get up early in the mornings and make sure I don't get lazy. They cuddle with me on cold winter nights and comfort me with gentleness and concern when I'm sad. They protect me from both real and perceived dangers (watching me carefully when I go into the basement, lest some tragedy befall me in that cold, dark place). They offer their constant companionship, unconditional devotion, and sudden, spontaneous expressions of love and joy. How can that not be good for your health and well-being? No matter what else is going on in my life, spending time with my dogs helps me to put life back in perspective and to remember the simple things.
Our first dog, Roxy, is a pit bull-Labrador retriever mix that we adopted from the pound five years ago. She is my constant companion. Smart, energetic and playful, she believes her mission in life is to watch over me by staying within three inches of me at all times. I have owned several rescued pit bulls throughout my life, and they have all been the most affectionate, sweet-tempered, intelligent dogs you could hope to meet. I am active in advocating for the breed and involved in supporting pit bull rescue, re-training and re-homing.
Our second dog, Obi, is another big black dog. We haven't been able to figure out what exactly he is other than a Lab-something mix. He has a slightly bewildered look most of the time, and is quiet, gentle, mellow and sweet to a fault. He's just a big, silly guy.
This month we added a third dog to our family. Chipper is an 11-year-old collie who was abandoned in Kentucky when his owner died. We hope to provide a warm, safe place for him to live out his final years.
I became interested in adopting an older dog after reading an article on senior dogs in shelters that just broke my heart. Most people who come to a shelter are looking for a puppy or younger dog. A large majority of senior dogs in shelters end up being euthanized and are generally considered “unadoptable.” Often these dogs have been surrendered by their families due to an emergency or death in the family. But sometimes people just give them up because they don't want the responsibility, or because the dog isn't "fun" anymore.
I hope that by adopting an older dog, we are making a statement about the value of all life at all ages. But my greater hope is that these will be the best years of Chipper's life and that in his old age he will know all the love and kindness that he might have lacked early on.
I feel that our dogs are a gift from God, to fill our hearts with love and our souls with joy, and to remind us every day of what unconditional love looks like.
Lori Symmonds works in the Humanities department at Geneva College. If you would like to find out more about rescuing pitt-bulls or older dogs, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.