“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring–it was peace.” –Milan Kundera

If you had asked me about dogs two or three weeks ago I might have said, “I’m not really a dog person.” Or perhaps, “I used to be scared of them, but they are growing on me.” Or even, “The boys want one, but I’m not sure I’m ready for that.”
Fast forward to now and I have become one of those people who doesn’t quite understand why you wouldn’t want my dog to come to your dinner party, or into your restaurant or store. (She’s a really, really good dog 🙂

We got Cassie when my husband’s uncle passed away recently. When I say “we” I mean my husband and kids. I was out of town at the time. And it is a testament to just how sweet Cassie is that you didn’t hear the screams when this happened. That’s because there were none.

Normally this is the kind of thing that would really make me mad. Getting a dog while your spouse is out of town in my mind constitutes a massive breach of marital and familial ethics.

The thing is, I didn’t even mind. In fact, I was kind of excited. And I didn’t understand why.

Then I met Cassie.

A four-year-old French poodle (aka miniature poodle), my husband got Cassie when he went up to help his cousin move some of his uncle’s stuff out of his house. Her partner – a large, black slobbery blood hound – had already been adopted (thank goodness!) and she was on her own. What could my husband do but bring her home?

Immediately she attached herself to him, refusing to leave his side, insisting on going to work with him, ingratiating herself with her sweet face and her best behavior. She was house-trained, leash-trained, didn’t shed, didn’t smell, didn’t bark. Like an angel in a dog’s body. Or a Buddha.

(I read somewhere recently that one of the most famous Buddhist koans – a koan is a question or puzzle for meditation – is, Does a dog have a Buddha nature? To which I would now reply, Absolutely!)

Every day with Cassie is like a lesson in how to live. Here are just a few of the things she has taught me so far:

  1. You reap what you sow – About a week after we got her I came home from the store and she greeted me at the door with a happy dance and many excited yips. I immediately got down on the floor and gave her some pettings, rubbed her belly and told her what a good dog she was. Then I went over and gave my husband a quick peck on the cheek before starting to unload the groceries. At first this seemed wrong – to fawn over the dog and give my husband just a quick peck – but then again, he didn’t do a happy dance or start cheering when I came in the door either.
  2. Take more walks – Despite my insistence that I would not be the one taking care of a dog if we got one, I am pretty much the one taking care of the dog. This wasn’t my choice, but hers. Cassie will not go on a walk with the boys unless I come along. So every morning, and every evening, and every afternoon, we head out around the block to see what we can see. The thing is, I kind of look forward to it. It is a great way to start and end the day – a little exercise, a little fresh air – and also to break up the working day. Pay a few bills, take a walk. Do some dishes, take a walk. Watch some bad TV, take a walk. Repeat.
  3. Stop and smell the everything – Of course walks with Cassie are nothing like walks all by myself. We stop, she sniffs, we walk. We stop, she smells, we walk. Someone told me the other day that smelling is a dog’s way of reading the paper. They find out whose been here, what they’ve been up to, where they went next, etc. Apparently Cassie really, really likes to read. It seems to make her happy knowing everything that is going on in the neighborhood.
  4. Take an interest in others – Before we got a dog I would walk around the neighborhood, passing people who were my neighbors all the time, not saying a word or even meeting their eyes sometimes. Cassie never does this. Whenever we meet a dog in the ‘hood Cassie stops, gives his or her bottom a good sniff, allows the other dog to return the favor, maybe touches noses if she really likes someone. And I am nearly always the one to say it’s time to move on. The dogs would stand there sniffing all day if the humans would let them. Thanks to Cassie I have met more of my neighbors in the past three weeks than in the previous three years.

I am sure this is only the beginning of what Cassie has to teach me and I look forward to every lesson.

Lara Simmons

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