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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Averyt: Dogs And Life Lessons

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I've never been much of a dog person but maybe that's changing now, thanks to a couple of energetic, endearing canines with the classical names of Nero and Homer.

My son recently asked me to spend a week dog sitting -- or rather dog walking -- while he and his fiancé headed off to bask in the midwinter sunshine of Key West.
 

I spent weeks in advance of the trip worrying about the challenges of an urban sojourn with two active dogs. I knew Nero, a five year old Australian Sheppard, was well behaved, but I wasn't so sure about his younger brother. Homer is a barely one-year-old rescue dog of boundless energy and uncertain parentage, though probably part whippet.

I admit I envisioned being pulled down the street by two racing dogs, me aloft in midair. But the reality proved far less intimidating than the anticipation. It didn't take long for Nero and Homer to win my affection and the walks I feared became the highlight of my day. Nero with his regal gait and Homer, always on high squirrel alert, proudly introduced me to their neighborhood.

I understand now why dogs are more than just pets, they're members of the family. I have a son with two daughters, my granddaughters, and thanks to my other son, I have two furry granddogs. The love for all is shared and genuine. Both my granddaughters and my granddogs have taught me about joy, about playing and sharing, affection freely given and received, about jumping and dancing, laughing and barking -- that special canine expression of mirth.

My sister, who has fostered innumerable dogs over the years, says they are more loyal and non-judgmental companions than humans. My friend, parent of Floyd, a floppy golden retriever, calls him the guru of joy.

"He lives totally in the moment." she says. "When I am with him I realize how much I'm smiling, how happy he makes me feel. When we are out together walking in the woods, it's just fabulous. He feels, and he makes me feel, like isn't this just the best ..."

I don't think I would have completely understood what my friend was talking about before I spent that special week bonding with my son's dogs and learning to love them -- learning to appreciate the affection of a slurpy lick, to share the couch with furry creatures and not tire of the endless games of "throw-the-toy-in-the-air-and-I'll-leap-up-and-catch-it".

I've come home now to my dogless Vermont abode, but still when I open the door I half anticipate nuzzling dog greetings and to be honest, there are still mornings when I awake and wish there were two classical canines sitting next to my bed, looking up at me and asking with their quizzical expressions, "When do we go for our walk?