You longtime loyalists (and you know who you are) will remember the exploits of Sheila the Family Wonderdog in this space. You will also recall that Shelia went to Doggie Heaven a few years back where she now enjoys swapping yarns with her pals Lassie, Rin Tin Tin and Old Yeller and chasing squirrels into eternity.
Sheila was, in fact, my granddog which meant I petted her and provided her with dog biscuits but left trips to the vet and poop-scooping to her rightful owners, my son’s family.
I still miss Sheila but I am happy to announce that there is a new granddog in my life these days. His name is Murphy. Actually, his full name is Murphy Gooddog. Like Sheila the Family Wonderdog before him, Murphy Gooddog is of uncertain parentage which means he is not likely to get a shot at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. I don’t think they have a category called “Plain Ol’ Dogs.”
You may be wondering how Murphy Gooddog got his name. As I watched my daughter training him on the do’s and don’t’s of acceptable canine etiquette, she would say “Murphy Gooddog” whenever he succeeded, which was quite often. A strange name, I will admit but it beats Scooby-Doo or Toto.
When the pandemic hit, Murphy Gooddog was in the process of becoming a certified therapy dog. That is quite an accomplishment for a plain ol’ dog. Therapy dogs live at home with their owner but after rigorous, in-depth training they then are able to go into places like retirement or nursing homes, schools, hospitals, mental institutions and hospices and do what dogs do best — give comfort and love to people who need it.
I have been around Murphy Gooddog enough to know firsthand that he will be an excellent therapy dog if and when training resumes. He has been practicing his skills on me. No matter how blue my funk when he arrives, seeing his happy face improves my attitude instantly.
The late Jasper Dorsey, who was vice president of Southern Bell’s operations in Georgia, was both my boss and my mentor. He taught me a lot about the business world but he taught me even more about life. One of his observations was that to get along with people effectively, it was not necessary to read books like Dale Carnegie’s self-help book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” as good as it may be. Just act like a dog.
Unlike people, dogs don’t judge us based on the color of our skin, our financial status, our social standing, our sexual orientation, our political affiliation, our religious beliefs (or lack thereof), our education, whether our ancestors fought on one side or the other in the Civil War or anything else. They accept us for who we are.
If we screw up and embarrass ourselves or others or totally fail at whatever we do, that’s OK with them. They don’t hold it against us and continually harp on our human frailties. They love us in spite of ourselves.
The best thing about a dog, Mr. Dorsey used to say, is that they are loyal to a fault, whether we deserve it or not. Dogs are not fair-weather friends. They are with us in the good times and the not-so-good.
Before you feel the need to remind me: Yes, there are a few dogs that give their fellow Canis lupus familiaris a bad rap. They bite people or bark too much or chase cars. It’s not their fault. That is because, like bratty children, they were raised that way by us humans.
Speaking of humans, I hear people saying that with all the violence and protests and statue-razing and social media ranting occurring these days that we going to the dogs, suggesting our society is headed downhill. One theory for that idiom is that in earlier times rotten food not fit for human consumption was thrown to the dogs.
Maybe it is time we redefine that phrase and say that it would be beneficial if this country really was going to the dogs. Let’s face it. We humans haven’t been doing such a hot job these days. Maybe we need to act more like dogs.
In the meantime, while Murphy Gooddog awaits clearance to get back to training as a certified therapy dog, I will let him continue to practice on making me a kinder and gentler person. He has a lot he can teach me.
Dick Yarbrough is a longtime Georgia resident and former public relations executive. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb.