Kent Bernhardt column: Lessons from a dog

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 15, 2011

I think Iíve figured out why God gave us dogs.
They teach us how we should love each other: Completely and unconditionally. We humans are not so good at that.
I have my dog back with me now after a good scare this week. ěBuddyî (I like to call him ěBuddy the Wonder Dogî) hit the trail for parts unknown after becoming frightened by some neighborhood fireworks on the Fourth of July.
My friend, WBTVís David Whisenant, tells me that this area experienced a rash of such disappearances during the July 4th holidays. Pet owners were left scrambling to be reunited with their dogs on Tuesday morning.
Itís easy to understand why.
Dogs naturally think that loud, explosive noises of any kind signal the end of the world as they know it. When they hear fireworks, the have but one thought:
Run. Run far, run deep, and just keep running.
I had forgotten about Buddyís fear of fireworks, or I probably wouldnít have left home Monday night.
It didnít use to be a problem. Even when he was afraid, Buddyís entire world consisted of the boundaries of my fenced-in backyard. He was content there because, outside of our occasional walks together, he knew no other world.
Then around Christmas, Buddy made a startling discovery. He found out there was a bottom to the fence. Some uneven earth at one location of my yard made him realize there is something out there known as ěThe Other Side.î
ěThe Other Sideî is a faraway land filled with many fresh patches of ground to be sniffed and an occasional roll-out trash can to explore.
Being able to access it was pure ecstasy to Buddy. Face it. To a dog, that is the equivalent of discovering that you are Superman and can fly whenever you want.
I started receiving regular reports of Buddyís visits to neighborsí backyards. I would also return home often to find him waiting to greet me Ö in the front yard.
My attempts at patching this canine portal to Nirvana worked for a while. But soon, Buddy found he could not only dig under the fence, but could even squeeze through latched gates, bending them with his sheer might.
Again, to a dogÖthat is the equivalent of discovering you are ěfaster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive.î
Being the homebody he is, he soon tired of his adventures and was content to make his home under the side porch where he would emerge only to greet me after a long day at work. He had seen the wonders of the world, and once was enough.
Until the Fourth of July fireworks.
Sheer panic sent him back into the unknown and away from his loved ones for several days. We worried, prayed and searched using every tool at our disposal. In the end, it was the thoughtful generous spirit of strangers and friends alike that helped us find our prodigal son, nearly six miles from our home.
I suppose Iíll have to figure out a way to rein in his boundaries once again. Iíve already had discussions with friends about underground fencing. Iíve even considered making Buddy a purely indoor dog, but then Iíd have to call him ěBuddy the Winder Dog.î I donít think that would work anyway.
If God were to grant favors, Iíd ask him to allow us to speak to our dogs in a language theyíd understand for just one minute.
Think of it. What would you tell your dog in that one minute?
I know exactly what Iíd tell mine:
ěBuddy, I love you dearly, but you need to work with me on a few things. First, please never, never, never leave this yard again. Itís part of why whatís left of the fur on top of my head is nearly white.
ěSecondly, thereís the lightning and thunder. Weíre all a little afraid of them, but youíll be fine if you stay under the side porch. The lightning and thunder will leave soon.
ěThirdly, I know you like to ride in them, but cars are dangerous. When you see me get into one, donít ever walk behind it or even too close to it for that matter. These things are far more frightening than lightning and thunder because theyíre operated by people.
ěAnd finally, once I roll the garbage can to the curb, please leave it alone.î
Iím sure that would tell Buddy most of what he needs to know to lead a safe, happy life.
As for what Buddy would tell me, well, Iím almost sure heíd use the entire minute to say the same thing over and over again:
ěI love you more than youíre ever capable of knowing.î
To which I would tearfully reply, ěI know.î
Kent Bernhardt lives in Salisbury.