I once read a meme that said, “I question people who do not like dogs. But, I always trust dogs when they don’t like a person.”

In our country pets, specifically dogs, are given elevated status. I did not understand why people felt this way. Then, I became a dog parent. In a short period of time, I acquired three mutts- Baxter, Chewbacca, and Shaggy.

Chewbacca

Chewbacca or Chewie was our first puppy. My husband and stepson had been talking about a dog for a couple of years before we got him. But, once we decided to obtain a dog, the boys were on a mad dash to find the right one. We met Chewie during a trip to PETCO. Unbeknownst to me, they hosted shelters on Saturdays to encourage pet adoption.

The minute my husband saw Chewie, he knew. “Go fill out the paperwork because I will not put him down.” My husband said. Within an hour, eight week old Chewie was on our way to our home. Immediately, he endeared himself to us.

Chewie is the most emotionally needy of my pups. He whines if I do not pay enough attention to him. And, if I am on my phone and he is sitting next to me, he will swat my hand. It’s as if he means to say, “Pay attention to me. I am more important than that silly box.” He reminds me that the world is not in my phone or computer.

In sum, Chewie has proven that he is incredibly smart and emotionally attuned to all the people and pups that live in our home.

Baxter

Baxter is the youngest and smallest of our brood. Like Chewie, he was about eight weeks old when we got him. We have been the only family he knows. He is a seven pound blonde terrier. As his hair grows out from the latest haircut his look evolves from little gentleman to old man/mad scientist. I cannot help but laugh just looking at him.

He is independent, stubborn, and completely cute. Baxter has perfected his side-eyed look. You can practically feel his tiny glare upon you when he does it. When I get the side-eye, I know what he wants; a scratch behind the ear or a gentle belly rub.

Baxter wants to be touching me. But, he does not necessarily want me touching him. As I sit here writing this essay, Baxter is curled up next to my outer left left. He just takes what he wants. He does not whine like Chewie. Instead, he asserts himself whenever he requires attention.

Shaggy

We got Shaggy second. He is our middle dog-son. He was fully grown by the time that we adopted him. My son and I met him out front of a Orange Leaf yogurt store. The same rescue shelter, Four Paws, was hosting a dog event there. As soon as we got into the store, my son said, “Mama, he needs to come home with us.”

Shaggy is a mystery to us. What kind of life did he lead before he came to us? Did he suffer? This may sound like a weird thing to ask about a dog. But, Shaggy behaves in ways that make us wonder about his life prior to our home.

Shaggy is a gentleman dog. He waits until you invite him outside. He does not start eating until given permission. The other two will begin running towards a bowl the minute I put it down. But, Shaggy only comes forward when released.

Shaggy has been a bit of a wild card too. He likes to bully the other pups occasionally. He can also be gruff with children. He growls if you pet him too long or you get too close to his face. Still his good qualities outweigh the bad. He wants to be loved but gets scared when he receives attention.

The pack

Over the course of my dog-owning life, I have become incredibly connected to my three pups. I am the person that primarily feeds and walks them. As a result, I have become their alpha. It’s funny, before I owned dogs, I assumed that an alpha met the “strongest” person in a group. But, the truth I have learned is that an alpha is the person or pup that protects and provides for others. I have learned that leadership is about protecting the group’s best interest and providing for all the opportunity to be fed- physically, mentally, and spiritually. I have learned this from dogs.

They have also taught me other things. They have taught me that you cannot give in to pack mentality. You see, the three of them can be big bullies.

The minute I have a snack they become little mafia bosses. They will sit and stare at me in stony silence.

“Feed me.” Growls Shaggy. “How ‘bout you pass me one of them snacks.” Says Chewie. “I don’t want a lot. Just enough to wet my beak.” Says Baxter. He’s a Coppola fan.

But, I must resist the cuteness and Godfather references. I must be the strong one that says. “No, chocolate is bad for you but oh so good for me.”

What value lessons have you learned from pet ownership?

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