Dog Friends, Old and New

This week, Canine Camp Getaway hiking and lure coursing instructor Bob Dealy is guest blogging for us about dog friends, old and new, and about the journey from “new dog” to “beloved friend.”

For ten years my beagle Duke and I were inseparable. We were best friends and a good team. Around Christmas 2010 he passed. This November I was fortunate enough to have Shadow (Black Lab mix) come into my life. She is lovable and happy and we are bonding well. The two dogs are very much alike in many ways.

My old friend Duke set the bar high for future canine companions.

I love the way the two dogs would come up with alternatives to barking by using their tails to bang against objects to get attention. They are great at socializing with people and other dogs. Both are willing and ready to take a car ride at a moment’s notice, and when I come home, they give me the best happy dance you’ve ever seen. I was charmed when I first brought Shadow home that she went right to Duke’s old toy box and started playing with the toys. Talk about a quick adjustment period! Who could be so lucky?

I’m comforted by the similarities I see in the dogs. So what is the problem?

It seems that I am very lucky to have two great dogs, and I am. Yet I sometimes find myself assigning Shadow the job of being “Duke 2.0.” She is not.

I have not allowed her the time and space to show me all the wonderful things that she can be yet. I get disappointed when Shadow shows a behavior that Duke never would (i.e. the case of the disappearing chicken breasts). But she is not he. I must learn to teach her what is expected. I can’t take for granted she knows what to do just because of the similarities. And I certainly can’t expect her to live up the expectations of an old friend she has never met.

And that is the point of this entry. In dogs, as with people, we need to give those we let into our lives the opportunity to show us what is great, unique and different about them — even when they seem so much like others we have loved.

They say it’s the journey that matters, not the destination, and that is particularly true with our four-legged friends. Getting to know a new dog is a wonderful adventure. And just as no two dogs are alike, the relationship you build with your canine buddy is utterly one of a kind.

I see great things for Shadow and me in the future. We’ll share adventures, hikes, vacations, BBQs, days out playing with friends and lazy nights in watching Yankees games. We will share many of the things I shared with Duke, and many new things that are all Shadow. She will be her own dog, and I have no doubt she’ll make a great companion.

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