I can’t imagine a life without animals. Each dog (I have three) and even my seven cats enrich my life. They give me more reasons to get up and greet them each day. Each pet has their own personality. Of course, I have favorites and so what?! Everyone has friends and certain friends who are favorites. Tilla is the dog I never expected. I lost the first dog I ever raised from a pup, Daisy, who died from cancer and then a golden retriever came our way.

Our one male dog, Pax, impregnated her before we could get her fixed and seven pups came our way, most of them born on our bed. We sold four (one died) and I did not have the heart to tell my wife to separate the last two, which we kept. One male, Tilla, and a female Coco both who I have learned to love dearly. They certainly complicate our lives but we had the means to build a fence around part of out property.

We did have one problem:  Tilla the most athletic of our four dogs could jump the fence so a year later we even built the fence higher now it was too high for him to make it over.  As time went by, I developed a close relationship with Tilla.  Maybe just by giving him belly rubs whenever he wanted them.  Wouldn’t that be something if we can make friends with other humans by just giving them belly rubs?!  Anyway, the human equivalent.  Whatever that might be?

I looked at my dogs outside.  All four.  Each was facing away from the large white pine tree forming a circle around the tree in a different direction.  I love my four dogs.  Each differently.  Coco, a female black long haired is simply sweet.  Pax the elder likes the sound of his own voice.  Sweetie the golden retriever is just that sweet and happy go lucky and loves to gnaw on branches.  Tilla and I have a special relationship.  I earned his loyalty by almost endlessly rubbing his belly.  In fact, he often gives me a hug by resting his upper body on me and then having me pet him.  He is no small dog–at least seventy pounds–very affectionate.  All of them are big.  They are enjoying the snow today.  I never in my wildest dreams expected to own four dogs (and that does not include the seven cats who roam the house).  To say the least, we have no mouse problem in our house.  I could not have imagined this menagerie twenty-five years ago.

“Thump!  Thump!  Thump!”  I say that to my favorite dog.  And his tail just wags faster and harder.  Tilla has had other names in the past:  the loveable mutt was first called Atilla The Hun, now shortened to Tilla.  Then the Olympian.  He the was the only dog athletic enough to clear our fence forcing us to build it higher the next year.  He tried then right away to go over but bounced right off it and did not try again.  He is a lovable rogue. I am sure he will earn other names as time goes by.  He is the same dog that never forgot being chained to the table twice when we were punishing him.  You can not keep a leash near him:  he will simply chew through it so leashes are kept out of his reach.  He never forgets.  Right now I feel sorry for him for he is limping slightly.  The vet says he has a torn tendon.  I am hoping we can correct that in the future.  Anyway, he is my dog.  I won him over by giving belly rubs almost any time he wants one and he loves his sporadic walks I give him.  I love him with all my heart and soul.  I never thought any dog would replace Daisy–a black mutt I had since she was a puppy but he has.  Dogs don’t live forever so I will enjoy him now.  Everything is by grace.

Tilla gets all the belly rubs he wants.  He is one of my black dogs.  He rolls over quite readily asking for a belly rub.  And he usually gets it.  Why do humans have such problems in seeking affection from others?  And why does it get so complicated?

I really do not know.  Why can’t others be more honest.  Of course we can’t roll over on our bellies but we can approach each other without guile.  You are more likely to get strokes from others if you are not deceitful.

I know Tilla loves me.  He is a dog.  So what.  There is something very simple about pets:  they either like you or they don’t.  They never feign affection.  We can learn something from this behaviour.  Be who you are, whoever you are.  It will pay in the future.

Don’t be so afraid of getting hurt.  Of course, children, most children are honest and open in their dealings and expression of their emotions.  And somehow a lot of people lose something in the process of growing up.

Never pretend to be something you are not.  Others usually see through other people’s disguises.  Just be who you are.  A tall order but simple.  You will benefit in the long run.

I woke up in the middle of the night and Tilla one of my pups was asleep right next to me again.  I never thought another dog would come along who I would love as deeply as Daisy, now gone over three years.

Daisy was the first dog I raised from a pup.  She was one stubborn dog.  I finally decided to train her when I broke the front door window for the third time.  She would go berserk whenever I was about to leave the house.  She scared me and I slammed the door again breaking the glass.

It took infinite patience to train her to stop barking uncontrollably every time I was about to leave the house.  I would clamp my hands over her snout when she barked.  If she stopped, I praised her.  Otherwise I said nothing.

I repeated this technique umpteen times.  I knew I had succeeded when all I had to do when she barked was “shush” her and she would stop immediately.

It also took a long time to train her to sleep in the corner of the bed.  She would want to sleep too closely to me.  I must have pushed her away from me dozens of times in bed before she started sleeping at my feet.

My wife was always amazed that now she would automatically sleep at my feet at the furthest reaches of the bed.

When I was in the house her eyes never left me.  She was my dog.  She finally died and I missed her terribly.  And I thought that there would never be a another dog like her.

Well, Tilla came along.  We were down to one dog and someone gave us a young female golden retriever.  And you know the rest of the story:  she got pregnant before we could fix her.  And Tilla was one of her puppies.

Tilla as opposed to Daisy wanted to please.  We had our own set of problems with him.  Tilla was the only dog athletic enough to  jump the fence we had erected and finally at great expense we had it built higher.  He also had a bad habit of pooping in the dining room every night.

He is the only dog of ours who prompted a visit from the local dog warden when a neighbor complained about one of his escapades.

He was a scoundrel and was the most aggressive of our four dogs yet paradoxically was timid when it came to other humans except us.  He will be three next July.

Tilla did certain things to endear him to me.  He loved getting belly rubs and would turn over on a dime for that privilege.  Whenever he was waiting for me to let him out he would twirl rapidly in almost perfect circles.  He was the only dog to do that of our four.

I started giving him special walks because for a while he was the only dog we could not let loose in the yard.  He can’t replace Daisy but he has come close.  And he came when I least expected it.  He has captured my heart.