Michelle Martin

Loving a dog

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

It’s no secret that we are a family of dog lovers.

My husband and I bought our first dog when we were engaged, and we haven’t gone more than a week or so without a dog in the house over nearly 30 years of marriage.

Our current canine companion, a black-and-white pit bull adopted almost five years ago from the Chicago Anti-Cruelty Society, has turned out to be maybe the most affectionate of all the dogs we’ve welcomed to our family. She wants to do more than lie on laps (all 55 pounds of her); she wants to occupy the exact same physical space we do.

That’s OK. We like having a dog that loves people. We’re not always as thrilled with the way she reacts to other dogs. She’s willing enough to be friendly on walks, but she’s wary. All it takes is for the other dog to do something she interprets as a threat — including look at her wrong — and she’s barking and growling.

She’s also very possessive of our house and backyard, and in her mind, that includes the sidewalk that runs along the fence. Once again, people walking by to visit is great; other dogs, not so much.

She’s gotten better over the years, if only because she’s learned that the presence of another dog will likely lead to a treat. (Did I mention she loves food almost as much as she loves people?) But she still can’t be left alone in the yard for any amount of time.

That’s the thing about dogs, and other pets as well. When you take on the responsibility of a pet, you have to take care of them the way they need to be taken care of. You don’t get to decide that your dog will not have a chewing problem, or will love to play fetch, or will never get into the garbage.

You have to take your dog the way it is, and figure out how to care for it in a way that maintains the dog’s health and safety and your sanity. If you’re fortunate, your relationship with your dog will help you live a happy and healthy life, helping you to be calm, stay active and get out of your own head.

There’s a lesson there, for all of us 21st century humans who think we can have the world and everything in it on our terms. Dogs and other pets are creatures — members of creation — just as we are, and creation was given to us to care for, not to exploit and throw away, no more than we would simply discard a beloved family pet.

Take some time to think about what creation needs from you, as an individual, and us as a people, and spend a little less time thinking about what we want to take from creation.


  • family life