Over Easy: Familiarity breeds in the company of dogs

For the Valley News
Published: 9/10/2021 9:50:30 PM
Modified: 9/10/2021 9:50:41 PM

As a retired newsman, I am always sniffing around for trends, and recently my nose for news led me to this one: Dogs are upping their game.

As I stroll about, mostly in West Lebanon, I am seeing more high-end dogs. Maple Street, the main pedestrian thoroughfare, is a veritable Easter Parade of canines.

I have always appreciated mutts of all stripes, but dogs today are more likely to be pedigreed, or representative of interesting combinations, such as a pug and Pekingese, resulting in a puginese. The other day I saw a dog so handsome I had to ask about it. The owner told me it is a labradoodle, part Lab, part doodle. No, make that poodle, of course. I believe the Lab genes made it friendly, the poodle portion self-assured of its beauty. The dog paused to let me pet it, in the way royalty might shake a commoner’s hand — and then regally moved on.

In my own neighborhood, I am on friendly terms with a border collie, a couple of standard poodles, a lovely bichon frise, a Lab or two, and an athletic mixed breed who deserves a new designation, an American Tennis Ball Retriever. I am withholding their names to protect their privacy.

I don’t take their friendship lightly. That is particularly true of the border collie, because you can tell he is always on the job, ready to spring into action if a flock of lost sheep happens by. In the meantime, he keeps himself professionally occupied with cars, squirrels and other surveillance duties. I’m pleased he can give me even 30 seconds off the clock.

The poodles spring like Tigger in the Winnie the Pooh sagas. The bichon, whom I have known since she was a puppy, holds me forever in her good graces because I snuck her a couple of steak tips about 10 years ago. One decade on, she awaits the next serving. No one can live in an extended state of hope like a dog.

In my perambulations, I have met an impressive Portuguese water dog and a Newfoundland who made me stop and exclaim, “Now that’s a dog!” The American Kennel Club describes Newfies thusly, “The massive Newfoundland is a strikingly large, powerful working dog of heavy bone and dignified bearing.” His head looked bigger than mine (I did not try to fit him for a cap), which impressed me since I am blessed with a considerable noggin.

I have also made the acquaintance of many small dogs, such as pugs and terriers. I used to have a bias against diminutive breeds, but the bichon has made me rethink my anti-small small-mindedness.

I cannot overstate what a change this is from the days of my youth, when dogs were considered dispensable. Strays were not unknown and the term “mangy mutt’’ was common. I don’t think the city pound in Providence, R.I., charged anything for one. It may have been the source of our quick-tempered beagle named Snoopy who nipped its way through our family and then made the mistake of going after my father. My parents said Snoopy was sent to “the farm,” which I believed even though there were few farms in Rhode Island and I can’t imagine he was much suited to agricultural endeavors.

I am not surprised that the dogs of today are held in high esteem. The long months of COVID-19 isolation have left us craving affection, and no one is more loyal, forgiving and yes, loving, than a dog. They have not given up on us after all our recent misbehaviors, which is astonishing. A dog will never ghost you. A dog will always text you back.

You come home from work or the store and it’s as if you’d crossed the Sahara without bottled water or sunscreen to be with them again.

You propose a stroll around the block and it’s as good as a trip to Paris, Maui, the Taj Mahal.

A ride to the dump? No one has ever had a better idea, ever. Cue Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.

There is a saying that you should try to be the man (or woman) your dog thinks you are. That is only the half of it. You may not know it, but a well-treated dog is secretly nominating you for the Nobel Peace Prize, or a MacArthur genius grant. When the dogs at the dog park bark, they are bragging about their owners. They are one-upping each other about what wonders we humans are.

Maybe I am exaggerating these good qualities. But so do dogs, constantly, which makes us such perfect companions.

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon.
He can be reached at dan.mackie@

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