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It’s been a rough dog month. Several of my friends have lost furry companions recently, one under extremely unfortunate circumstances.

Losing a loved one is difficult, no matter what the species. There is something unique about the love and loss of a dog, however, that carries its own special sorrow. Of course, every owner’s relationship with their dog is different; but for me, the melancholy and sadness that comes with losing a dog is brought forth by the questions: did my dog know how much I loved her? Did she know how much she meant to me? Did I live up to the loyalty and love that she gave to me freely? Was I good enough to her?

The curse and blessing of the human-dog relationship is that it is not bound by language, that is to say, expressive vocal communication. Sure, dogs can learn commands and they can detect emotion in our voices (though often facial expressions are the key). But when it comes to actually communicating with our dogs, words and sentences fail us. As result, we never have Read the rest of this entry »

As I have said, I am a sap when it comes to dogs.

Recently I read about Rufus, Target, and Sasha, three stray dogs who together saved the lives of up to 50 US soldiers in Afghanistan when they prevented a suicide bomber from entering a barracks on base. The bomber got the door open but Rufus and Target had latched on to his legs, preventing him from entering. Sasha was barking wildly, alerting her friend, Sgt. Chris Duke, to the danger. When the bomber realized he could go no further, he detonated his vest.

Sasha, the smallest of the three, was injured so badly that she had to be put down. Rufus and Target were both horribly burned over the majority of their bodies. Thanks to the soldiers, they were nursed back to health and survived the attack. This Reader’s Digest article has the whole story.

Keep in mind that these dogs were only curs. They aren’t purebreds, or show dogs. They were simply mutts, strays from a war-ravaged country who, despite having no reason to care about humans, acted out of instinct and loyalty to the soldiers they had befriended. Even though they probably did not know their lives were in danger, their acts were still, by all accounts, heroic. They selflessly put themselves between their friends and danger, giving fur, skin, and blood in the process and, in Sasha’s case, the ultimate sacrifice.

Can you blame me for being a sap over dogs, when I see what three strays are capable of?

Unfortunately, this post is not about dog heroism. Rather, it is about human incompetence, selfishness, and cruelty. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m a sap when it comes to some things. Probably more than most. “America the Beautiful” is one. Same with excellent poems, great speeches by now-dead figures, the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, some songs by John Prine, happy endings, and a lot of other things. I get emotional, tear up, and get that gaspy, hollow feeling in my gut.

Near the top of that list are two things I hold very dear and am exceptionally sensitive to – fallen veterans and dogs. With both – be it their loyalty, their dependability, their commitment to something bigger than themselves, and their willingness to sacrifice for others – we can find shining examples of characteristics we all should endeavor to possess. I am humbled by them both, and can find in them joy, security, and sorrow.

For this reason, when I found this story about Navy SEAL Jon Tumlinson and Hawkeye from TODAY, I cried like a baby.

Thank you, Jon, for your dedication and ultimate sacrifice. You live on in our liberty and memories.

Thank you, Hawkeye, for your loyalty and devotion. We share in your grief and wish you renewed happiness with your new master.

I will forever be amazed by the dedication of our veterans and of humankind’s best friend.

Should you feel compelled to do something, you can help out veterans and their families here (all of these are well-rated charities):
Fisher House Foundation
Navy SEAL Foundation
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
Homes for Our Troops

And you can help human’s best friends here (again, all are very well-rated charities):
Hearts United for Animals
Animal Friends
ASPCA
or your local humane society

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