6 June 2024

It's time to appreciate what you have ... before it's dog-gone

| Sally Hopman
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Blind dog in front of a laptop

Can you read my emails please, I can’t find my glasses, asks Mickey the Wonder Dog who despite being about 300 years old, blind, deaf and known to regularly wander around in circles, is appreciated. Photo: Sally Hopman.

When someone designates one of those silly weeks like Be Kind To Your Toothbrush Week, even though it might bristle, most of us just paste on a winning smile – and try not to think about it being worthy of (a) plaque.

Yep, you know those days/weeks, usually designed to make you aware of something you don’t need but have to buy. Like Bring Back Long John Underpants Day or Save Some Weird Weed Week.

Well, finally, we have one worth fetching. Drum roll please … and welcome to Pet Appreciation Week (6 to 12 June).

And yes, there’s so much to appreciate. Even if you don’t have a dog, you can at least try to be appreciative. Breathe in the freshness that’s not dog’s breath. (The alternative of getting up close and too personal with an old bone is not even worth a sniff).

Sure, without a dog you’d probably sleep longer and more comfortably, you’d be a whole lot richer if you didn’t have to buy organically grown, cosmically constructed, completely unidentifiable little lumpy things that scientists swear will result in a shiny coat – the dog’s, that is. You’ll have to buy your own shiny coat.

Then there are the pets that deserve absolutely no appreciation whatsoever. Such as mice and rats. Can you believe some pet stores sell food for these revolting rodents – as well as selling the frozen rodents themselves as food for other, larger, but similarly unattractive pets, such as snakes. Hard to swallow really.

But for the pets that do deserve your appreciation, there are baskets of them. All dogs, some cats, no rabbits and even fewer rats, but each to their own.

READ ALSO It shouldn’t be controversial to ethically rehome your dog

For me, it’s always been easy to appreciate dogs. Most of the ones who’ve adopted me over the years were missing bits. Not crucial bits such as heads and bottoms, but random limbs, parts and senses – legs, a tail, eyesight, hearing and brains.

It’s not like they’ve been stupid, although anyone who ever met Brian the Labrador may well dispute this. I like to think of it as being challenged. Challenged to be in any way remotely, normal.

It wasn’t hard to love Brian, it was just hard to understand him. Most Labs, when they greet someone, anyone, at the door, bring them gifts. A sock, stick, small but always valuable ornament, but Brian always brought my doona. He’d drag it off the bed, or, who am I kidding, off the floor, and shuffle it through the dog door – the size of a normal door so he could get through it – tripping over himself and the doona as he went.

He would drop it in the dirtiest/muddiest bit of the garden and look to me for a reward.

His best friend, Lassie, who was blind, followed straight along behind him. She was no fool. She knew that if he stopped, rather than running straight into his dangly bits, she’d land on the doona and could go back to bed.

READ ALSO Vet on a mission to make pet care available to all animals in need

Perhaps the oldest and most-lacking-in-bits would be Mickey The Wonder Dog. At 300 years old, deaf as a post, with eyes so foggy it’s hardly surprising he never knows where he is, ever, and with a weird penchant for walking around in circles, he still wakes up in the morning smiling. He really does, showing all three of his teeth and oozing breath that could peel bananas. (Just as well he’s deaf so he didn’t hear a colleague ask whether he’d last the day when I brought him into work).

There’d likely be dozens of dogs over as many years who have adopted me. Sure they had problems, but they were hardly Robinson Crusoe. So I’d like to think we’ve learned from each other when it came to appreciation.

I appreciated they trusted me to give them a decent life. Hopefully, they appreciated that not all those with only two legs were so bad and were, for the most part, only human.

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