To paraphrase Roger Karas, head of the Humane Society of the United States if I'm not mistaken, my dogs are not my whole life, but my life would not be whole without them.
I've "owned" Golden Retrievers now for more than 17 years, and I cringe to use that phrase, as I don't view them as my slaves or subjects, but companions. They have taught me well over the years not only how to be humane, but human, and to enjoy every minute of it.
After my first two, Cooper and Tucker, passed, we looked into fostering with the state rescue group, Golden Retriever Rescue of Wisconsin, and the experience has been a blessing. (Yep, that was a shameless plug.) We're now proud foster 'failures' of two - Ralphie & Gus - and also are fostering our eleventh dog, Buddy. Recently, we all took a walk down the fitness trail that served once as Muskego's interurban railway. While we humans look at this exercise as just that - exercise - the dogs have a completely different perspective, and I envy their reckless abandon and rediscovery every time we set foot on that trail.
While I plod dutifully along the gravel path, they lace back and forth, conquering the berms and marshes, thick brush and unfortunately the burr thickets, gleefully romping, leaping and getting a snoutful of whatever has passed through. I must seem completely dull to these boys. However, their lesson is not lost on me - I do relish the fresh, and lately bracing - air, the magic of the change in colors that fall has brought, and get a kick out of the sound of the flocks of geese that my dogs have disturbed from eating corn as they simultaneously flap their wings and honk, annoyed at the interruption.
As busy as they are, however, the dogs miss nothing. Nearly back to the car one day, all three were diligently sniffing when three sand hill cranes flew overhead. All three dogs immediately stopped and turned their heads back and up to watch the flight overhead. Curiosity? Desire? Bewilderment? Could be all three....but I understood that this was something to stop for and be noticed. So I did the same. The graceful birds flew noisily with their signature cross-shape and necks fully extended into a fairly aggressive headwind.
I don't recall every detail of every walk, but my trio made sure I remembered this moment. And so I did, and I am the richer because of it.