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January Has Gone To The Dogs

Usually when January comes around, we think about new beginnings rather than the past year. Some individuals love January because they welcome the lull that follows the hectic holiday season. Others dislike the effort it takes to begin again, whether that means going back to work, back to school or simply starting a new calendar year.

But like a train on schedule—whether it makes us want to sigh with relief or get revved up for a fresh start, we’d better get on board before it leaves the station.

In June of 2019 Ralph Knuth of Waynedale walks his neighbor Don Miller’s dog, Digger, a male white lab who resembled Knuth’s dog, Spirit, which he had to say good-bye to three months earlier. Both neighbors each have had labs as pets for nearly 50 years. Knuth currently has a wine-colored lab he named Brandy.

However, if you’re dog lover, January has events from beginning to end to call to mind one’s faithful companions. January 2 is “National Pet Travel Safety Day.” We all think about wearing our seatbelts and following the rules of the road. But how often do we think about how to keep our dog safe in the car? Focusing on traveling safely with your pup in the car will help all have a better time and enjoy the trip.

January 8 is “National Lab Retriever Day,” an occasion to celebrate what excellent companions they are. But labs have served more purposes than just being great companions. In the past, Labrador retrievers were primarily used to retrieve wild game from bodies of water. They were used as hunting dogs due to their aptitude for partnership, keen intelligence, and love for the water. These days, Labrador retrievers can still be used for hunting, but they are often purchased as family pets. They are incredible service dogs, guide dogs, scenting dogs, arson task-force dogs, performance dogs and search-and-rescue dogs.

There are more dog-related observances in January:

It’s “National Train Your Dog Month,” an observance celebrated to encourage dog owners to train their dogs to be well-behaved and obedient. Also celebrated in January is “Unchain a Dog Month.” This observance aims to raise awareness about the dangers of chaining dogs and encourages people to provide a safe and comfortable environment for their pets.

January 14 is “National Dress Up Your Pet Day” and January 24 is “Change a Pet’s Life Day” or “How to Adopt a Dog.” This day isn’t only life-changing for our pets, it changes our lives for the better, too. Everyone can agree that having a pet brings a limitless amount of happiness and solace since they give us their eternal love, devotion, and support. This day enables us to provide a new home for one or more of the millions of animals in shelters.

The “Seeing-Eye Guide Dog Anniversary” is on January 29. It is an appreciation for all the dogs who act as their owners’ eyes and ears. The devotion and taught abilities of these particular canines keep them safe and enable them to operate as fully functional “persons.” The day is meant to recognize the school that educates them. Seeing-eye dogs go through extensive training to be able to safely traverse the environment and all its hazards for their person. That is why they are so worthy of this recognition.

Since World War II, guide dogs have been utilized worldwide. With the goal of counseling war-affected troops, Morris Frank is credited with being the first recipient of a sighted dog in the United States, a dog called Buddy. Dorothy Harrison Eustis, an American dog breeder residing in Switzerland, wrote about a guide dog display in Potsdam, Germany, in 1927, and the essay was featured in The Saturday Evening Post. This article was about dogs being taught to be ears and eyes for German World War I veterans.

Frank sent a letter to Eustis as soon as he read the story, imploring her to train a dog for him. Eustis agreed to Frank’s urgent plea and welcomed him to Switzerland. After a time of training with two dogs, Eustis and Frank picked the best dog for the job, which Frank called Buddy. In 1928, Frank arrived in New York City, where he and Buddy were met by a swarm of media. And Buddy was fantastic at navigating Frank through the congested streets of traffic and people. When Frank arrived home safely, he wrote a success message to Eustis to express his happiness.

The See-Eye was started on January 29, 1929, with Frank and Eustis as co-founders. To this day, the See-Eye is the world’s most sustainable guide dog training school. The Seeing-Eye Guide Dog Anniversary celebrates the See-Eye’s inception date as the year’s anniversary. Many people’s lives are becoming more stable due to guide dogs, and many governmental policies for people who need guide dogs are improving due to their eyesight.

To conclude, the entire month of January is “Walk Your Dog Month.” So, get up off that sofa, get moving and don’t let those sub-zero winter temperatures drag you down. Dogs need plenty of exercise throughout the year and the best way to keep them active in winter is to take them for regular walks. Even a short walk around the block on a cold day makes a big difference. So, begin this year with a pledge — better health for you and your dog!

The relationship between human beings and canines has always been unique. No two species have formed such a close and mutually necessary bond. Other animals have been domesticated, but none have ever worked so closely with humans – helping the blind, guarding the home, playing with children. Dogs are quite simply humankind’s best friend.

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