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Dogs have a lot to teach us

By Dick Yarbrough
Georgia humor columnist

You longtime loyalists (and you know who you are) will remember the exploits of Sheila the Family Wonderdog in this space. You will also recall that Shelia went to Doggie Heaven a few years back where she now enjoys swapping yarns with her pals.

I still miss Sheila, but I am happy to announce that there is a new grand dog in my life these days. His name is Murphy. Actually, his full name is Murphy Gooddog. Like Sheila the Family Wonderdog before him, Murphy Gooddog is of uncertain parentage which means he is not likely to get a shot at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

You may be wondering how Murphy Gooddog got his name. As I watched my daughter training him on the do’s and don’t’s of acceptable canine etiquette, she would say “Murphy Gooddog” whenever he succeeded. A strange name, but it beats Scooby-Doo or Toto.

When the pandemic hit, Murphy Gooddog was in the process of becoming a certified therapy dog. That is quite an accomplishment for a plain ol’ dog. Therapy dogs live at home with their owner but after rigorous, in-depth training they then are able to go into places like retirement or nursing homes, schools, hospitals, mental institutions and hospices and do what dogs do best — give comfort and love.

I have been around Murphy Gooddog enough to know he will be an excellent therapy dog if and when training resumes. He has been practicing. No matter how blue my funk, seeing his happy face improves my attitude.

The late Jasper Dorsey, who was vice president of Southern Bell’s operations in Georgia, was both my boss and my mentor. One of his observations was that to get along with people, it was not necessary to read books like Dale Carnegie’s self-help book. Just act like a dog.

Unlike people, dogs don’t judge us based on the color of our skin, our financial status, our social standing, our sexual orientation, our political affiliation, our religious beliefs (or lack thereof), our education, whether our ancestors fought on one side in the Civil War or anything else.

If we screw up and embarrass ourselves or others or totally fail at whatever we do, that’s okay with them. They don’t hold it against us. The best thing about a dog, Mr. Dorsey used to say, is that they are loyal to a fault.

Yes, there are a few dogs that give their fellow Canis lupus familiaris a bad rap. It’s not their fault. That is because, like bratty children, they were raised that way by us humans.

Speaking of humans, I hear people saying that with all the violence, that we’re going to the dogs, suggesting our society is headed downhill. One theory for that idiom is that in earlier times rotten food not fit for human consumption was thrown to the dogs.

Maybe it is time we redefine that phrase and say it would be beneficial if this country really was going to the dogs. We humans haven’t been doing such a hot job these days. Maybe we need to act more like dogs.