The more mature I get, the more I realize the importance of companionship. Growing up, my immediate family met this need with my oldest sister being both best friend and closest companion. The transition to adulthood changed this dynamic. Marriage, children and the migration germane to an Army career put distance between me, my parents and siblings; a wife and kids became my new closet companions. Now that the offspring are, for the most part gone, the void that was once filled by their presence is now occupied by a trio of four-legged companions who have taken their place.
The French novelist, Colette, remarked “Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet” and I could not agree more. I am not alone in my concurrence of the noted Parisian’s comment as statistically speaking a pet can be found in 85 million US households. In 72% of those domiciles, a cat or dog is the animal of choice; 78 million felines and canines in all. Stated another way, 85 million American families own at least one pet; 39% of which are dogs. (I promise no more math; no more statistics!)
There are many hypotheses – scientific, anthropological, evolutionary, and otherwise – that attempt to explain the human affinity for pets. With deference to academia, however, I feel the reason for this unique fondness was best captured by 19th Century English novelist and poet, George Elliott, when she penned, “Animals are such agreeable friends. They ask no questions, they pass no criticism.”
One peek into the Reynolds home and you will find our companions of choice are a triad of pups: Two King Charles Spaniels and an American Bulldog to be exact. Each, bona fide family members, no less pampered, no less loved and no less enjoyed than the “siblings” whose place they’ve taken.
True to the poet Elliot’s words, these three have never passed a critique nor offered a criticism. No questions either. Instead, this trinity of canines seeks nothing but constant, yet winsome, demands for attention and an equally steady expectation of food, fun and frivolity. Oh yeah, and an endless supply of chew toys and snacks.
These expectations are but a small price to pay for what I gain in return. For me, the rewards reaped having them in my life are limitless. The older I get, the more I appreciate the critical role these companions play maintaining the harmony and balance in my life. They are the perfect pick-me-up for a bad day. They never cease to make me smile and are many times likely to make me laugh out loud at their ceaseless shenanigans and animated tomfoolery.
More than just source of mirth, merriment and joy, my three pups also provide me a sense of tranquility in the face of tumult, turn frowns into smiles, pick me up when I am down, give me comfort and solace when most in need. That my faithful companions are able to do this minus the ability to utter a single syllable reminds me of poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s passage, “He speaketh not; and yet there lies conversation in his eyes.”
Of course, all of these remarkable talents my canine companions exhibit with boundless frequency pale in comparison to their greatest characteristic, loyalty. None of the trio have ever lied to or misled me, left me in a lurch, failed to follow thru or promised something they could not deliver. Everywhere I go, they shadow me with relentless doggedness (pun, shamefully intended) never resting beyond my arm length’s reach (although I suspect maintaining proximity to the hand that typically holds a snack for them has much more to do with this than an obligation for closeness.)
The canine’s penchant for owner loyalty is a recognized and well documented truism. From my perspective, a characteristic that solidifies in my mind a dog’s standing as the ultimate companion. As I age, the steadfastness of this conviction anneals with the passage of time. At this epoch of my existence, my pups are, with a few human exceptions, the closest companions in my life.
I have been known to quip that I like dogs better than most people. Those who know me well keenly note this comment is more an oath than a wisecrack. Anatole France, a French man of letters and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1921, beautifully observed “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” As I progress along the timeline of life, the more awakened I become.
If you have never experienced Monsieur France’s epiphany, I encourage you to do so. It is never too late because “Life does not end at the Half Century mark. It actually BEGINS at the Second Fifty.”
This blog is dedicated to Paisley, Lacy Belle and Phoebe Nicks; a trio of four-legged companions whose ceaseless loyalty and unbridled affection add an immeasurable dose of serenity to my life.