I love my dog. I must begin with this fact lest you begin to wonder. I really do.

In a little more than two weeks, Nessie, our Christmas puppy, has outgrown a collar, a leash and a car harness.

In addition, she has eaten another leash and two dish towels. We discovered the second towel when she threw it up in the corner last night, along with all of the food she’d eaten for the day.

She is also fond of the taste of socks and has attempted to eat several including some that still had feet in them. Couch tassels and throw pillows are also targets for teething, as are chairs, computers, lamp cords, shoes, shoe strings, rugs, eyeglasses, hats, coats, scarves, gloves and floor moulding. You get the idea.

She is fairly well house trained, as long as her humans pay close attention. We, I admit, are in need of more training. She will sit to get her leash snapped on to go outside. She will sit to get it snapped off and “stay”, waiting patiently for her treat. I’d like to take full credit but she almost came this way. We just had a little reinforcement and rewarding to do. Once we learned our part, she had her duties down pat.

She’s also learned the fastest way to get more water from the humans is to place both feet on top of the counter by the sink, which she can do with ease. It creates lots of noise and attention and eventually leads to water.

But her favorite new trick of all is retrieving, which is what all labrador retrievers have in their bones. She cannot resist a tennis ball tossed or soccer-kicked in her field of view. She will quickly bring back anything you toss in return for a round of lavish praise. She is learning to “drop” the toy but it’s going a little slower. Releasing the hard won prize is hard for a teething puppy. It just feels too good on her gums.

But the best thing to retrieve by far is not a ball or bone. The ultimate prize is fetching my son’s underwear out of the dirty laundry in his room and proudly parading them into the den for all to see. She can’t seem to understand why we don’t appreciate this clever feat.

In spite of the confusing humans she lives with, Nessie has yet to find a person she doesn’t love. Since we are her fourth (and final) home in four months, maybe she’s just playing the odds. A fresh person to play with trumps toys, food and other dogs. We are all, in her opinion, just marvelous.

This has led to an interesting role reversal. Suzie and I spent the years since Hershey passed living on borrowing dogs. We would ask to pet the dog and end up explaining our need for a little dog love to total strangers. The dogs usually didn’t mind and the people were often receptive to someone declaring what a wonderful, beautiful, perfect dog they had.

Now, we find ourselves on the other end of that equation. We have met people from all over the country who are traveling without their dog, or left him in the hotel, or are here for a day trip and have dogs at home. We have heard about their Chihuahuas, huskies, beagles, labs and mutts. We have answered questions and received training suggestions. You learn a lot about a person from their relationship with dogs.

Nessie loves them all. She makes me like them a little better, too. They are no longer strangers or tourists or loud people with noisy kids who take my parking place. They are a family of dog-lovers. They are neighbors from far away. They treat me like I must be as wonderful as my dog thinks I am. I start treating them as if they are as wonderful as Nessie believes.

Because Nessie loves me. Thoroughly and totally. Without reservation. Nessie makes me think maybe I’m not such a bad fellow. And I’ve learned to value Nessie’s opinion.

So if Nessie loves you, well, you can’t be all bad.


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