International Dog Day is a time to celebrate dogs of all shapes, sizes, and breeds. From the heroic police, rescue, and disability dogs, to the fluffy, affectionate pooches who make our lives and homes so much richer.
There has been a significant canine in my life ever since I can remember. First there was Jessie, a bolshie Scottish terrier who delighted in chasing away every intruder to the household, particularly if it was a family friend's small Bichon.
Next there was Andi the corgi, a true gentleman who walked away in embarrassment when birds bathed in his water bowl, and pretended not to notice when neighbourhood cats made themselves at home on our living room settee. When Andi passed away aged 15, It really did feel as though a member of our family had gone, as though he had left a gaping, aching hole in our hearts. For many months, I would wail loudly on seeing another Pembroke welsh corgi trotting along in that distinctive ‘sand in their bathing suit‘ manner (as Anne Tyler put it), and after watching the story of Tino the corgi in 'A Dog's Purpose' I shed bath tub loads of tears.
However, the sight of an empty dog bed, and a spotless, hairless sofa begs you to act eventually. And so, a year later, along came Bingley, named of course after Jane Austen's excellent Mr Bingley. While rather more rambunctious than his namesake, he has turned out to be every bit as good natured, and obliging.
To celebrate this special day, here are six things to cherish about our beloved pooches - with books (and Bingley photos of course) - to back it all up:
It is humbling to see how onto it dogs are when it comes to the perfect portrait - take the array of poses beautifully captured in ‘Dogs: Gods’. From the soulful eyed heart breakers, to the glamorous looking floor mops, these dogs know how to pose, photo bomb, and win our adoration.
There are few things more fun than playtime with your dog, watching his goofy, joyous, and oh-so adorable antics. There are also few things more rewarding than teaching your dog new skills and tricks, sharing in their infectious excitement.
Not to sound like a canine version of 'Pretty Woman' but dogs really do rescue us right back. Not only are they service animals who sniff out our criminals, assist the blind, and save us from perilous situations - they are also companion animals who help us through anxiety, loneliness, and illness.
Owning a dog makes you get out there, not just physically with daily walks and adventures, but also mentally and socially. It’s surprising how much more popular you suddenly become, when your walking companion is a furry one with four legs. As Edward Stourton observes in his 'Diary of a Dog-Walker':
"If you are accompanied by a dog you can talk to anyone, and anyone can talk to you - about anything"
It is hard to remember when you've just seen your toddler painting your dogs nails and telling them they're a good horsie, that dogs are, deep down, proud, noble, and wise. Of course, we all know that dogs are very intelligent, often picking up well over a hundred commands and tricks, and assisting us with a variety of tasks, but they are also very insightful, sensing the moods, and situations around them.
Since their domestication from the grey wolf around 10,000 years ago, many dogs have led ideal lives as beloved pets and companions. Their philosophy teaches them to find anything and everything exciting and joyous, be it a grubby squeaky toy or a run around in the park. Dogs really do have much to teach us (though perhaps not from grubby toys - they do not teach us much). As Mark Alizart writes in his Dogs: A Philosophical Guide to Our Best Friends':
"Dogs genuinely seem to have become ‘philosophers’, if we accept the idea of the stoics, the buddhists, and Spinoza that wisdom consists in accommodating oneself, with simplicity and gratitude, to what life has to offer".
There are so many reasons why dogs are heralded as man's best friend. Devoted, smart, and the most joyous of companions, dogs also teach us much about ourselves.
My favourite book on raising dogs would have to be 'The Art of Raising A Puppy' by the Monks of New Skete. While it covers all the essential tips and training advice you need from the very moment you bring your pup home, it also digs deeper, giving you an understanding of the loyal, intelligent individual your dog is. As the monks themselves say:
“When we pay close attention, dogs mirror us back to ourselves in unmistakable ways that, if we are open, foster understanding and change... A better insight into your dog may suddenly give you a glimpse of your own humanity."