Up Close With Dr. E

A world without dogs


Can you imagine a world without dogs?

It would be like this: Gone are the colossal red and white, robust St. Bernard, renown rescue dogs for those shivering souls trapped under alpine snow. Gone are the elegant bronze-blue-black Newfoundland, heroic swimmers who fearlessly plunge into sea storms to save shipwrecked children.

Say goodbye to the German shepherd, Labrador, Boxer and Collie, who, having fulfilled their first duty to the blind (by being a surrogate sight provider), next use their keen minds to rocket the human-dog union into the upper altitudes of deep companionship.

Farewell to all the working dogs: The sled dogs such as the Alaskan malamute and the Siberian husky, the truffle dogs who sniff out mushroom-like fungus, the police dogs who locate explosives, drugs and restrain criminals. No more dogs who herd sheep — Pyrenees, Kuvasc, Border collie, Welsh corgi or Australian Shepherd. Hunters, no more Bloodhounds, Beagles, Pointers or Blue tick Coonhounds to help you track and tree your prey.

The greatest loss by far? A world without dogs would mean that every companion dog, watch dog or guard dog would disappear. With their disappearance would go one of life’s greatest gifts: A child playing with their puppy? Hasta La Vista to all puppies — the Poodle, the Dalmatian, Pug, Papillon, Chihuahua, Maltese, Chow, Pomeranian, Toy Terrier.

So why am I writing this article? The reason is the loss of a treasured member of our family. As hard as it is to admit, I have never had such a close relationship with any animal as I had with this 10-pound, 9-inch-high Yorkshire terrier, my daughter’s dog, named Roxy. Roxy’s coat was silky steel blue with golden highlights on her paws, chest, and face. Her chocolate eyes were lively, vivacious and contain unlimited affection. But it was her incredible sense of hearing which won me over to her, changing forever my most basic beliefs about dogs.

I grew up in a family where dog values, handed down from my mother’s farming traditions, were defined by the following criteria: Outdoor, big, hunting or guard/watch functions only. The concept of a tiny, indoor lapdog was as foreign to me as, well, speaking French or wearing a kilt. So, when my then 10-year-old daughter began her campaign for a Yorkie, I resisted. When my son and wife joined my daughter’s campaign, I relented, and Roxy joined our family. Here is the story of how Roxy captured my heart.

It was the winter of 2009, in January. The weather had been terrifically cold — 10 to 20 degrees below zero for eight days. At 2 a.m., I was woken up by Roxy’s barking. Was something wrong? I went downstairs to find her in our dining room, looking up at the ceiling, barking non-stop. As I followed her eyes to the ceiling, I spied the reason for her alarm: water, cascading down the ceiling and walls, was flooding the room. My wife ran to shut off the main water valve, while I went upstairs to rip off the section of wall used to inspect our pipes. The extreme cold had burst the pipe which brought water to the upstairs. Roxy had heard the pipe burst, and the ensuing flood caused her to go into alarm mode. Her quick action saved one of our most precious possessions: our library, with all our books, catalogued and organized on bookshelves in the dining room.

Roxy’s act changed my beliefs about small, indoor, non-hunting companion dogs (though I still have a collie and a Siberian husky, and most recently, a Boston Terrier). She also taught me how to better understand the hearts of children. As a psychologist, who, on a daily basis, deals with life’s hardships, I can, once again, thank Roxy for teaching me this: Every child I meet in my office is now asked, “Do you have any pets at home, like dogs or cats? I write down the names of each pet so I can begin to listen to the unique relationship between boy or girl and puppy, or child and dog. I wish every child ever born had the chance to feel the energy, joy, and pure delight of a puppy. Roxy lived a full life with us, until she passed away at the age of 13. I miss her every day.

The content of this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for treatment by a professional.


Dr. Richard Elghammer contributes his column each week to the Journal Review.


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here