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Going to the Dogs

Have you ever noticed that dogs are wearing pretty nice outfits these days? Our dog had a leather harness and a rawhide leather leash and that was it. We thought the leash was pretty special because everyone else was using chains and simple leather leashes. No, he didn't have rain boots, a raincoat, any formal wear or even a blanket. Yeah, those were the days when dogs were dogs and that was it.

But today, dogs have become more than pets and we know that when we see that the pet products market is rocketing toward the stratosphere with sales in the billions. Want to make some money? One way might be to open a pet clothing store on the internet and specialize in customized tailoring. Think what fun that would be.

Our dog never got married, didn't ride in a pet carrier but loved to go for rides in our old car. Say "car" and his ears perked up, he flipped up from the floor and did everything but run to fetch his harness.

Yeah, those were the good old days. And, BTW, he was a mutt, a puppy my father found in the back of an old car someone dropped off near his work. Never could figure out his lineage. He had no distinctive characteristics of any breed. Multi-colored, he looked like someone took colors, mixed them up in a bowl and threw them all over him.

One of his many attributes, however checkered his lineage, was that he was fiercely loyal and my mother would hook his leash up to my carriage, put it outside the front stoop and never worry. The dog was on guard duty but without a uniform.

Dogs are now, it seems to me, of two classes; those that are intended to rip your arm off and those that are substitutes for empty households. Yes, dogs have become surrogate children and they receive all the care and attention their owners would give to any child of theirs.

Walking along a beach one day, I came across a beautiful labradoodle running ahead of a man who was holding a leash. I asked, "Is he your dog?" The man looked at me with an almost curious smirk on his face as he responded, "No, he's his own dog. We only take care of him." So, no ownership there. Quite liberal minded I would say. The animal wasn't to be "owned" but "stewardship" was the operational word I suppose.

More than companions, dogs now serve in therapeutic capacities, help persons with disabilities in their homes where they fetch items, turn on or off lights and can sound an alarm if necessary. Dogs, having an incredibly keen sense of smell, it seems, can even sense when someone is going to need their insulin or might have a seizure.

They are sentient creatures that we love dearly. Some researchers believe that dogs are even capable of smelling cancer. This may sound a bit far fetched but science makes new discoveries all the time and this might be one of them.

Can dogs help us live longer? I think they might because just having their unquestioning affection and loyalty lowers our stress hormone which, in turn, keeps our blood pressure in check and helps our immune system. They also have a calming effect on us and coming home to a dog after a hard day at work is a wonderful thing. I think it's a lot healthier than a dry martini.

I suppose I have to question why apartment complexes would prohibit dogs all together, especially where many residents are elderly. A dog gives meaning and more purpose to life and dog walkers can be found who will gladly volunteer if need be. If you have a dog, you have to get up in the morning and get yourself moving. You have a responsibility and you must own up to it. That dog needs walking (great for the owner, too), feeding, brushing and both of you need several hugs during the day.

Can a physician write a prescription for a dog? No, but they can make a case for an "emotional support dog." Needn't be trained to do anything but what comes naturally; loving someone with whom they live. Could a successful court case be initiated where someone indicates they want an apartment complex to permit them to have a dog? Could be. Let's see who files one.

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