I am a dog man, and one dog made me a better person

Dogs and dolphins are my favorite animals. No, I’ll never have a pet dolphin. So for obvious reasons, I’m a dog man.

This gets personal.

My childhood dream was to play in the NFL. In Junior High, I was hands down the best kid in my grade. However, in high school, everyone else grew. I didn’t.

When you’re a kid, time goes much slower. Adults forget just how impatient kids are because as a kid, one year is literally forever. So as a kid, I thought my life was pretty much ruined when I learned that I’ll never make the NFL.

Enter my dog. At first, I treated it like an alien creature. I wasn’t a dog kid. I didn’t even like dogs and had no idea why my father got us a dog.

That dog ended up changing my life

So here I was with no hope for the future (let’s not forget, I’m a teenager) and a dog. I had really good friends, but nobody understood just how badly I wanted to play in the NFL and how it would never happen. I felt so alone, and since I was at the time selfish and misunderstood, I treated everyone poorly, including people who tried to help me.

But the dog showed empathy. When I showed emptiness, the dog just understood. If you’re not a dog man, you wouldn’t understand.

Blueberry in the snow

Dogs have been living with us for tens of thousands of years. There’s a reason for that. For one, they have better hearing and better smelling than we do. We have better eyesight and opposable thumbs. We’re simply better hunters.

It was a match made in Heaven. They traded us their noses and ears for our hunting abilities and our abilities to make fire. And tools. And our abilities to catch tons of food.

The dog became man’s best friend. Not just because of their abilities, but also their ability to empathize. They became genuine friends.

That’s how my first dog was. I had the blues and my dog was there for me when my good friends and my girlfriends didn’t understand me.

I bought a guitar

Well, I changed high schools and the guy sitting in back of me played the guitar. He told me to get one, and taught me everything he knew. He was heavily into Randy Rhoads so I started to get heavily into Randy Rhoads.

Ironically, I loved the first two Ozzy albums when they came out. But that was several years back and Judas Priest became my favorite band by then.

So here I was with a guitar. And a dog. That guy, Dale, became my best friend and of course I was still close to the dog.

She died about a decade later, but not before sort of saving my life. She kept me happy long enough for me to get that guitar. That year was crucial for me, because there were times when I had suicidal thoughts.

Keep in mind, I was a teenager, and emotions when you’re a teenager are a hundred times stronger. I’ve since mellowed out considerably because of age. But I’ll never forget those tough years.

It may sound absurd to anyone who knew me back then because I was a popular kid with cute girlfriends. It doesn’t make sense to other people how depressed I was and how I thought of myself as a failure. We all know that it matters little how others see you. It’s how you view yourself, for better or for worse.

So if you’re a parent and your kid is depressed

Don’t underestimate just how much a dog can help. Dogs read your feelings quite well. They know what you’re feeling. They’re pretty much the most empathetic creatures out there. And let’s not forget how loyal they are.

Since our first dog died, we’ve had two more dogs. My wife, son, and I had a dog for thirteen years that was fantastic. She died of cancer though and was too far gone to be treated when we discovered what was wrong with her.

Roman from Astral Eyes is a dog man

This is me with Lucky, who died in 2013

Our current dog is a brat. But still a good dog. She needs constant attention and has severe separation anxiety. But still a good dog.

She loves to play angry bird, which means we have one of those Angry Birds toys that she constantly wants me to throw. She loves licking your plate after you’ve finished with your meal, and she goes crazy when my wife opens up one of those cheese pouches because she loves cheese.

One way to feel better about yourself is to make someone else happy. When your depressed kid sees how easily he or she can make another being happy, the kid develops a bond. And they start to feel better about themselves.

I sometimes wonder how many suicides dogs prevented. I can conservatively bet that dogs save hundreds of American teenagers a year from suicide.

A happy ending

Ironically, luck was on my side that I didn’t play at least semi-pro football. I’ve seen the stats of former football players with serious injuries and they look like a mistake. Football’s a dangerous game! Don’t get me wrong. I’ll always love it. But now I’m very glad I never made it.

Failure at one thing does not make you a failure. Instead, it creates opportunities for another path. I had a pretty successful career combined with real estate and stock investing where we’re well off now. No, not rich, but we live good lives.

Now I can really focus on music, whereas had I somehow succeeded in football, I would have never picked up a guitar. Plus, athletic careers are quite short. You hear about the guy who played until his late 30s. He’s very rare. Most folks play three to four years, and even they’re amazing athletes.

So yes, I’m today a dog man. I enjoy taking my wife’s dog to the dog park and meeting other dogs and their people. Most of them are good people, and you can see in their eyes how much love and joy their dogs bring them.

About

Roman is an artist, composer, writer, and travel junkie.

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