Vince and Marty LaBarbera w/ their dogs, (l-r) Taffy and Sadie.
If you have ever had a dog as a pet that you loved, then you know that life is better with a dog.

My wife, Marty, and I love dogs, almost as much as dogs love people. We have our own beloved, 40-pound Golden Retriever/Briard mix named Taffy. We adopted her from Animal Care & Control. And, we have a miniature Schnauzer called Sadie given to Marty by an elderly gentleman at the Southside Market who said he and his wife could no longer care for her.

Our dogs’ only discomfort occurs when we have to kennel them when we’re going to be out of town for several days. Probably it’s not as hard on them as it is on us. They also miss us when we leave the house – for five minutes or five hours! Even at the puppy stage, when we returned they greeted us as if it had been five days! Often, neither dog will eat when we’re away. Would you be that devoted to someone you love to wait all day for the person to return before eating anything?

Through the animal shelter where Marty volunteers, we’ve been privileged to foster puppies and kittens through the years. It was our opportunity to give them a goodly amount of love, attention and some direction so they didn’t develop fears and anxieties about humans resulting from ill-treatment. We also helped assess them as to whether or not each pup or kitten eventually would make a good family pet.

Our affection for dogs goes beyond the obvious that they are cute, cuddly, cheerful companions. What attracts us most is their loyalty, alertness, free spirit and illusive inner drive to bond with humans, especially their owners. Dogs don’t usually hold a grudge or try to get even if they’ve been left alone or scolded. Many dogs are devoted almost to a fault to their human masters, which is why some people prefer the independence and aloofness of a cat.

Take for example the legend of the homeless Skye Terrier named Bobby from Edinburgh, Scotland. As a pup he attached himself to an elderly shepherd named Auld Jock. After Jock died in 1858, Bobby guarded his master’s grave, day and night, for 14 years. He only left the cemetery to go to the Greyfriars dining room where Jock used to eat with his constant companion in a corner by the fireplace. There each day Bobby was given food which he carried to the grave site to eat. Moved by his devotion, the citizens erected a shelter at the cemetery to protect the loyal canine from the harsh, winter winds. In 1872, when Bobby died, the townsfolk arranged to have the little dog buried next to his beloved master. They also contracted for a statue of Bobby atop a fountain looking toward the cemetery. Dogs like Bobby can be a model for us today in our faithfulness to family, friends and loved ones.

Lest you think we’re ignoring the problems that can occur with any dog, especially a stray like Bobby, let us mention just a few: dog hair, independence – you’ve probably heard of the bull-headedness of a terrier – constant begging around food, concern that any dog can bite someone under certain circumstances, running away, jumping up on visitors, annoying guests who don’t like or who are afraid of dogs, barking just when you’re trying to hear something or when a delivery person approaches, and the occasional “mess” on the floor.

But, dogs “humanize humans” and help us rediscover our better selves, which includes being humble enough to clean up a mess and giving enough to share the couch with a canine companion. A goal for any dog owner is to be the kind of person your dog thinks you are. Many of us, in fact, are better persons for having known and loved a pet, especially a dog.

And when you come home at night with only the shattered pieces of your hopes and dreams, your dog can mend them like new with the magic wagging of its tail as if to say, “Welcome home. I missed you!”

Vince LaBarbera
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Vince LaBarbera

Vince is a Fort Wayne native. He earned a master of science degree in journalism and advertising from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. LaBarbera is retired but continues to enjoy freelance writing and serving the Radio Reading Service of the Allen County Public Library. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer