The Special Gift

Smiling NinaI like to think that we each have a special gift to share with the world. I’m still not quite sure what mine is, but I know exactly what my dog Nina’s special gift is. She’s a reminder.

She’s a friendly dog, and loves to meet new people. People ask about her breed and I explain that she’s a Sato, a street dog from Puerto Rico adopted from the Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem. They tell me how cute she is and say she seems very good-natured. Then they often look at her for a minute or two, and then tell me who she reminds them of. Sometimes it’s a movie star dog like Benji. There were actually at least four different dogs who played Benji, and she definitely bears a resemblance to them, some more than others. (For example, see the 1974 Benji.) Some people mention the 2010 movie Firehouse Dog, and I think she resembles that dog, too, or would if she had much longer legs.

But most people tell me she reminds them of a dog they used to know. Sometimes it’s a dog they had when they were growing up, or their grandmother’s dog or a neighbor’s dog. And that, I believe, is Nina’s special gift: she’s a mixed breed dog who perfectly embodies the general concept of doginess and reminds everyone of happy memories of a dog from their past and sends them off with a smile.

Nina, Six Years Ago

My New Dog : Nina

TaxiSix years ago, I went to Northeast Animal Shelter. I had waited for about ten years since losing my last dog, the late great Taxi (also adopted through the same shelter) and I knew I was ready for another dog. I walked in thinking I didn’t want anything special, just a scruffy little brown dog. And there she was, love at first sight, a happy young dog from Puerto Rico who had arrived that morning — a female dog whose paperwork only referred to her as niƱa, girl, a name that seemed good enough to me

Six years later, Nina is still a happy dog, endlessly enthusiastic, up for anything. The thing I love best about her is that she has a special generic Everydog quality about her. I often see people giving her a certain look, and then they tell me she looks just like the dog their grandmother used to have, or the dog that used to live next door when they were in elementary school, or the dog in a certain movie or a certain book cover. She’s not a retriever, she’s a reminder — she seems to remind a lot of people of some other dog in their memory. And this, I think, is her special gift.

October is Adopt-A-Dog Month

October is Adopt-A-Dog Month

My Favorite Quotation About Dogs:

“Very, very early a dog learns that life is not as simple a matter to his master as it is to himself. There are times when he reads trouble, that he cannot help or understand, in the man’s eye and voice. Then he can only look his love and loyalty, wistfully, as if he felt his own shortcoming in the matter of speech. And if the trouble is so great that the master forgets to eat his dinner; forgets, also, the needs of his faithful little friend, it is the dog’s dear privilege to bear neglect and hunger without complaint.”

Greyfriars Bobby by Eleanor Atkinson, page 17

Day 1: January 1, 2011

I don’t really believe in the Golden Rule. I don’t think we should treat others the way we want to be treated, I think we should treat others the way they want to be treated. This is much more difficult, because it requires us to carefully observe others and try to see things from their point of view.

Nina in the Snow

Toby Stops WalkingOne of the things I like about having pets is that it’s clear that they’re different from us, and have different interests and needs. Right now, I’m living with two dogs, and they’re not only differerent from me, they’re different from each other. Nina, who is my dog, loves the snow and wants roll around in it, run around in circles scattering it around, loves to dig in it. Toby, my daughter’s dog who is spending a few months with me, dislikes the cold and hates snow, and never wants to leave the house if there’s snow on the ground. His point of view in undoubtably affected by his size — he’s a tiny thing with short little legs, so even a few inches of snow is overwhelming to him.

Stone Wall in the SnowBut today the three of us went for a walk that was perfect for all three of us. The weather was mild and the sidewalks were clear, which was good for Toby; there was still a lot of snow piled next to the sidewalk, which Nina enjoyed; and we took a route with a lot of stone walls, which I like to photograph. (At one point, Toby decided he’d had enough and stuck a pose of passive resistance, but after I picked him up and carried him for a few minutes, he was willing to continue walking.)


Book CoverRibsy, by Beverly Cleary

This is an old favorite of mine, but I haven’t read it in many years. I was almost afraid to read it again. I’ve been rereading a lot of favorite books lately, and many of them have been disappointing. The books simply aren’t as good as they used to be. Ribsy, however, seemed as sweet, fresh and funny as it was when I read it to my little brother over forty years ago.

Ribsy is a good-natured mutt who lives with his boy Henry Huggins. He certainly never intended to run away, but one rainy day he escapes from the parked car while his family is shopping to chase a little dog who has been barking at him, and finds himself lost and confused in the parking lot.

“Ribsy had a pretty good nose, but unfortunately he was no bloodhound. He had never tracked a lost child over mountains and through forests. He was just an ordinary city dog, trying to track his owner across an enormous parking lot that smelled of oil and exhaust.”
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