• Nathaniel G. Sands

A girl and her dog

Man's best friend is an understatement. There is something about the primordial nature of both dogs and man that make for a connection that goes beyond words, and all the praise must go to the dog. I would describe the relationship more along the lines of: "Man's truest friend." Loyalty is a characteristic that we desperately need - a sub-trait of the word true, and a necessary combative to the selfish and self-conscious nature of humanity.

Three years ago I took Leah and her friend Teagan for a drive. I told them our destination was a surprise and the two eagerly hopped in the car and maintained melancholy chit-chat the whole drive. As we made our way into Abbotsford I decided to let them in on the secret intent of the trip. I told Leah we were going to look at puppies, and for an early Christmas present she could pick one. Her excited reaction of sheer joy remains imprinted within my memory.

Leah loves animals. She wants to be a vet one day and I couldn't think of a better fit for her. She has a natural way with all animals that I have observed in quiet reverence. She also has a very mature understanding of the way's of the world. She has encountered death, unfortunately at such a young age, but we don't pick how and when death greets us, we only control our response to this inevitable finish that marks the end of each and every life. At 9, Leah seems to understand that being a vet would be a daily encounter with these issues. But her hope overpowers all else, and she remains steadfast in her desires to help animals any way she can, even when it comes to seeing them go.

As we continue toward our destination, the girls in the back of the car excitedly discussed names for the Dog Leah was soon to pick. We were greeted at the entrance of the farm by our pet-to-be's mother, a large Border-Collie who's name I have forgotten. We were then led eagerly around the back of the house to where the puppies were. The mother Border-Collie followed us the whole way, and Leah's excitement continued as she learned we were the first one's to come, and that she could have her pick from the litter. The group of puppies, under a month old were playing in an enclosed space behind the house. I lifted her over the gate. Leah stood in the ring of puppies as they started to surround her. Leah was in her glory, and she visibly shone accordingly. In the car Leah told me she wanted a female, so I attempted to spot them so she could begin making her decision. She shook her head and stared down at one specific puppy. She pointed at him as he excitedly climbed up her legs. She said, "I want this one." I interjected that he was male but it didn't matter, she made her decision, although she'll be the first to tell you, "He picked me." And she named him after a dog we had attempted to adopt a few month's prior, who no-doubt went to a loving home.

More than three years later, our dog Bradley has been a blessing beyond any measure. He pretty well comes with me everywhere, and has a very unique relationship with the various people and dog's that he frequently see's. At work each morning he brings smiling and laughter to the greetings of each half-awake member of the crew. Some consistently bring treats from home, some wrestle with him on break, most share their lunches with him, and it seems all treat him as family. I take him for walks and bike rides, hikes and to the park. And most nights he is the motivation that pushes me and my daughter out the door, going for walks and looking up at the stars, an invaluable time where we discuss out thoughts and dreams with one another.

Bradley frequently brings joy to the lives of random people he encounters on the street, as their initial worries of seeing a dog off leash are settled with a friendly greeting, to turning heads as we bike through busy streets - him always listening for my vocal commands and never crossing a street without me, paying attention to the cars and people as we pass. Many dog's snap at him as we go by but it doesn't phase him. He waits for the friendly one's and consistently stops for a butt-sniff and a tail-wag. He'll sit outside as I go into stores, often prompting whoever is working to eagerly take out a treat to him. He is smart, loving and loyal. He is my best friend. And although he was an early Christmas present for my daughter, I must confess, that was simply a two birds with one stone scenario. The gift that keeps on giving. Man's truest friend.

From Jack London's Call of the wild:

"There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And it came to Buck, leading the pack, sounding the old wolf-cry, straining after the food that was alive and that fled swiftly before him through the moonlight. He was sounding the deeps of his nature, and of the parts of his nature that were deeper than he, going back into the womb of time. He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being."

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