Christmas is about many things, and I am sure you will agree, gifts form a big part of our celebrations. Today the brilliant Kelly Dunbar invites us to consider that there are not many gifts that can rival the companionship, love, support and warmth that come from owning a dog. Those memories stay with us forever. Read, enjoy, and maybe even shed a tear of love and a smile of thanks to our canine companions…
Dogs enrich our lives in so many ways. The holidays are a season of reflection and every year I take a little time to review the gifts the various dogs in my life have given me. Sure there’s the requisite cuddles and kisses, but oodles of laughter and life lessons as well. So I’d like to personally thank my dogs of Christmases past and present for sharing their lives, light, and love with me over the years.
To My Sweet Charlie Brown (aka Boo)
From the very first time I saw you as a pup at the dog show I knew we were meant to be together. I may only have been 5 years old, and you a young pup of 9 weeks, but our hearts and souls connected and we both knew right away that this was indeed a special bond. You were my best friend all through my school years and taught me the joys of sharing life with a dog. You were always by my side, through thick, thin, my first loose tooth and all the way to getting my drivers license. I cried into your fur at my first heartbreak and told you all of my childish secrets. You taught me the loyalty of a dog
In the end you even taught me how to selflessly and gracefully say goodbye to an old friend.
To Dear Ivan (aka Bubs)
You were my first dog as an adult and together we learned about dog training. Initially I was told to do nasty things to you in the name of obedience and leadership, and, against my better wishes I complied. I’m terribly sorry about that, and it did affect our relationship, but also, my love for you drove me to continue to search for kinder, gentler methods for communicating with my best friend. In our years together I tried lots of training methods with you and through it all, you maintained your sense of humor and dignity, while allowing me to find mine. In the end you taught me the invaluable lessons of forgiveness and how to train with respect and kindness over compulsion and cruelty.
To Mr. Oliver Twist (aka Little)
You came into my life as a shelter dog and companion for Ivan. The first lesson you taught me was that shelter dogs rock! My only regret was that I did not have the pleasure of knowing you as a pup; you must have been the cutest little guy ever! But you also taught me how to live life to the fullest. You did nothing at half-measure, you were a true pleasure-seeker that charmed all who met you. Your joie de vivre was contagious. In the end you taught me to live life to the fullest, to always express myself clearly, and that we should soak up the sunshine while we can.
To Claude (aka Claudey)
You came into our family as an adult dog with lots of issues. Nobody understood why we adopted you even though all agreed that you were indeed a handsome beast! But nobody could get close enough to touch you because of your handling and biting issues. Living with and training you taught me the power of gentle training methods such as classical and operant conditioning. Training you taught me about the courage it takes to rebound from adversity, but also that one truly can teach an old dog new tricks and give him a new outlook on life — one of love and comfort where even a formerly neglected dog can feel safe.
To Dearest Dune (aka Monk)
My first puppy in years! Wow, we’ve learned a lot together and the ride is not over yet. When I got you I had it in my mind that all of my years of experience would finally allow me to start fresh and create the “perfect” dog. We’d cross-train for many sports and you’d be the best-trained, most social creature on the planet! No pressure, right? Wrongo. Training you has taught me to focus on my dog’s individual strengths and set him up for success. It’s also taught me to enjoy the journey and not worry so much about the destination; to forget my ego and expectation of perfection and just have a blast with my dog.
Bonjour Monsieur Hugo-Louis (aka Lou)
My youngest. My bright star. Never have I met a dog (or human, for that matter) with a personality quite like yours. You are ever the optimist with a can-do attitude. You don’t let anything get you down. You are small and not built for agility or speed, but that has never stopped you from trying any task. You are up for anything. Your work ethic and ability to let adversity roll off of you like water off a duck’s back is truly inspiring. I can only hope that by hugging and kissing you every day that some of your Hugo-Dust will rub off on me because I want to be just like you when I grow up!
Kelly can be found on www.dogstardaily.com Kelly is a co-founder and the executive editor of the Dog Star Daily, a dynamic, web-based, multi-media dog-training learning centre.
She is the President of Open Paw, a non-profit organization devoted to addressing the unwanted animal problem from a different angle, arming communities worldwide with valuable user and animal friendly training and behavior information with the goal of keeping cats and dogs out of shelters by keeping them in their original homes. Kelly lectures internationally on the principles of Open Paw and consults for animal shelters regarding program implementation, layout, and staff-and-animal training protocols and procedures.
She is a director of the Center for Applied Animal Behavior, a multi-faceted business that focuses on teaching people how to train their dogs to be the best canine citizens possible.
Kelly is also a director for the K9 Games Corporation, a venture dedicated to bringing fun and games to the process of dog training in order to make it easy, entertaining, and accessible for all people, including children.
Kelly lives in Berkeley, California with three dogs, Claude, Dune, Hugo-Louis, and two hand-raised, species-confused cats, May & Uggs.