"If you want to have a better dog, you need to be a better person."
I read that phrase awhile back in a Jon Katz book. Katz is an author and dog lover and when I read it, it seemed to make sense. It also seemed pretty easy, since we didn't own a dog at the time.
The we adopted Copper from the local humane society. Well, I didn't adopt him. My kids did. They fell in love with his big brown eyes and his gangly limbs and his overenthusiatic confusion at his predicament.
Truthfully, I might have picked another pooch. But love can limit your choices.
Copper is just so big. He's three years old, over 50 pounds. He hadn't been neutered. He plays very rough, and it seems no one spent a lick of time leash training him.
Walking Copper strains our patience and our shoulders - he lunges at dogs, squirrels, old men getting their newspapers. We can't buy him treats - poor Mr. Whiskers sniffed at a new bone once and Copper picked him up and shook him like a rag doll. Luckily, the cat weighs a good 20 pounds and merely walked away with an injured dignity. And Copper loves, loves, loves garbage; last night he wolfed down half a baked potato. The other day he ate half a package of turkey bacon.
But Copper follows my son and daughter with gentle, adoring eyes. He sits, lays down and shakes hands on command. He snuggles beside me at night with his head on my legs, and warms my feet while I read.
In our back yard, he plays with such exuberance and happiness I wonder how anyone had the heart to abandon him in the first place. My kids look at him like he's worth a million bucks.
I look at the leashes he's chewed through. I pick up the garbage on the floor. I wonder if he'll ever learn what we're trying to teach him. I wonder if the local seniors will ever forgive us for scaring the heck out of them on their daily walks. I wonder if Copper will ever calm down.
I wonder if I can become that better person I read so much about. And I hope it will all get easier.