He’s Just a Dog

dog, golden retriever, autumnDo your teeth grit as hard as mine when people use that expression? What do they mean?

He’s just a dog, so his ‘feelings’ don’t matter, because he has none…?

He’s just a dog, so it’s fine to let him sit outside in the rain (or snow or hot sun) all day…?

He’s just a dog, so leave him at home for hours and don’t worry about him…?

I’ll lighten up for the rest of the post, but I needed to get your first visceral reaction. How do we treat our animals? Do they have “feelings” or concerns? Do they get hot and cold, bouts of hurt and spurts of joy?

Before our Henry’s arthritis got the best of him, I’d take him for walks in the woods every day. Once unleashed, he’d literally bounce for joy as he chased a squirrel or two (and habitually, the squirrels would hop up on the lowest branch and taunt the panting dog with loud cackling jeers – always made me laugh out loud).

When we returned home – me a bit sore from the long hike – Henry would get a gleam in his eye. I’d nod my head, and he’d race around our house like a speed car on a track. Around around and around. And when he stopped, his grin was as wide as a jack-o’-lantern’s.

But he was only a dog.

puppy, golden retriever

The first ‘baby.’

My daughter called me, furious, a week ago regarding their Golden, Charlie. Charlie was my daughter and her husband’s first “child.” A year later, the first “human” child arrived, and soon after two more.

But Charlie never gave up his status as first son. He wanted and needed attention, and with three little babies around, he wasn’t getting the kind of attention he demanded. So my son-in-law began to take Charlie to work, where he was loved and gently petted long and often by the staff. Perfect situation for everyone.

Until last week, when SIL had an all-day conference to attend and couldn’t bring the dog. My daughter and her little ones attended work/school all day, but once home by mid-afternoon, Charlie greeted them like long-lost pioneers who had found their way back to the settlement. Snack time ensued, along with a Charlie-walk and dinner and bath time and finally everyone was put to bed. My daughter climbed up the stairs to her bedroom, ready for a good book and an early bedtime, but she noticed the odd expression Charlie threw her way. He stood outside the bedroom door and refused to cross the threshold, which gave her the first clue. Then, she glanced over toward the bed. On her husband’s side, Charlie had left three piles of ‘poop’ neatly arranged one after the other.

Oh noooooo, dog’s don’t have feelings.

As rather disgusting as that story is, I love it, because it shows how animals use their own animal-ways to send us messages.

Do we listen?

dogs, golden retriever, play

Isn’t it time to play yet?

One more story – this one on the funny side. Our first dog, Tory, loved butter. She knew it was off-limits. She knew she was not allowed to jump her front legs onto the counter and grab the stick that was softening for baking.

golden retrievers, dogs, barking

Butter Alert!

So, she barked.

And barked and barked until I took the temptation away. By her middle years, we couldn’t keep anything temping out on a counter: bread, just-baked cookies, fresh vegetables and fruit (she most loved tomatoes, green beans, and apples). Anytime we heard her distinctive bark (and yes, she had a separate bark for ‘temptation!’ and one for ‘mailman!’ and a ferocious one for ‘the poodle across the street!’) we’d run from whatever room we were in and take away the offending attraction.

But she was just a dog.

She's just a human,  but we love her.

She’s just a human,
but we love her.



78 thoughts on “He’s Just a Dog

  1. A heartfelt beautiful post Pam, and Charlie’s ‘message’ to your SIL made me laugh out loud! Of course animals have feelings and needs. Thanks for sharing your love for your four legged friends, and know you are not alone in your appreciation and respect for them. Hugs and blessings, Harula xxx


  2. If you feel it’s “just a dog” you do not deserve the privilege of sharing your life with one who gives you unconditional love, companionship, laughter and so much more! Remember the cardigan sweaters we wore in high school that had little round covered buttons? BJ’s 2 Siamese cats got mad at her for leaving them, somehow got her bureau drawer open, removed every single button from her sweaters and left them in a pile on her pillow! But, they were “just cats” without feelings…..


  3. I feel the same way about dogs. And stress and stress when I see one being ignored in the backyard or chained up. Dogs need love and attention too. You bet your life they have feelings.


    • Oh, the times I’ve passed a fenced-in dog, rangy-looking and barking away, and wanted to call the animal rescue dept. But it’s not ‘illegal’ for an owner to ignore a pet, so I just stand there and give the dog some company for awhile.


  4. All of my dogs are part of the family… they talk to me and tell me exactly what they want me to hear… as do most of the wild animals and birds that I photo… but then being known as the Bulldog for the last 55 years, I should be able to converse with them…


  5. The vet states that we put human things onto animals and cats too do not pee on things because they are angry. (maybe cats aren’t supposed to do that but, our has meows for things like your butter alarm, goes to the door and has a purr for us upstairs to follow her down to the door to go out and she comes when we call her name to come in, she also sits and stays on command)


    • Sometimes vets and doctors speak of things by the ‘book,’ not by the heart. Those of us who live with our animals know differently. I’ll never forget when my vet began to cry openly in front of me. Sobs. HIs 3-year-old lab had just died (of Lymes disease). I loved that vet!


  6. Grrrrrr. I don’t like it when I see dogs being treated as if they didn’t matter.

    My Boxer, Mocha, had acute pancreatitis and was in the hospital for four days over Labor Day weekend. I took her to the veterinary ophthalmologist earlier this week because her eye has been bothering her and the antibiotics I was given two weeks by regular vets wasn’t working. Plus, I wanted to have her seen for glaucoma and cataracts. She takes three Pepcid with her breakfast and is on four different eye drops. I had to make a chart to keep the eye drops straight. The left eye gets three different drops. Two are twice a day, another is once a day. The right eye gets two different drops. One is once a day and the other is three times a day.

    My mother told me that I take better care of Mocha than some people take care of their children. I told her that I went and got her and brought her home. Therefore, I’m going to try to help her as long as I’m able to and she still wants to be around. I will not let her suffer.

    She lives inside with us. She has a bed in the living room and another in my bedroom. She’s family. I take care of family. Period.

    Now, excuse me. I have to go give her some eye drops. She hates it!


  7. One more thing….

    The veterinary ophthalmologist shares a waiting area with a veterinary clinic. When I was there, I saw a couple with their young Irish Setter. Their dog had shaved front legs and rump area. He also had netting on the rump area. They told me he had an anal gland tumor that was removed. It was huge–the size of a baseball. He was there to get chemo therapy. I talked to them for several minutes and told them my dog had had cancer removed 3 1/2 years ago. The clinic took their dog back to get his chemo and the couple headed out. Before they left I told them I hoped that he was going to be ok. She said, “Thank you. We take care of our dogs.” I agreed.


  8. I have found dogs have a lot of the characteristics many people lack. Loyalty, bravery, love? I am siding with the one who won’t let you down. That would be the furry critter with the wide, toothy grin!


    • I remember the times in the past 10 years when I’d have a bad cold or flu and snuggle in bed with Kleenex and orange juice. Henry would NOT leave my bedside – ever – until my fever broke and I could speak without coughing. Loyal love, indeed.


  9. Good morning -( but your blog made me cry – how can you do that.) Have a good day – and love mom

    Please note: message attached


  10. Nice stories Pam. I’m not a dog lover (far from it) but I abhor physical or mental cruelty towards them. That said some people get their priorities way out of line when they put dogs on pedestals and treat them as gods to be pandered to. (That’s me off some Christmas card lists 🙂 )


    • But you’re right! Those who speak to their little doggies as if they’re baby dolls (I can’t tell you how my guy winces when we pass a woman walking her dog in his own baby stroller) is as bad as parents who speak baby talk to their 2-year-old. OVERDONE. Please keep me on your Christmas card list. 🙂


      • And there are those who carry their little dogs around inside stores. I never saw that before I moved to CA. I can’t believe stores allow it—especially grocery stores. They’re not service dogs. I’ve seen people with their dogs in the carts at Wal-Mart, where there’s food. That should not be allowed.


  11. Having raised a few dogs I know they’re not ‘just dogs’. They each have a personality, feelings, fears and loves. I really don’t understand it when people say, ‘they’re just dogs’. A neighbour of mine recently told me there were a lot feral pigs in the area. I have three dogs and he said I should stop feeding them for about two weeks and then let them loose so they can chase down the pigs. I was mortified! I like my neighbour, but that was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever heard. I’m sure if I told him to do that with his children he’d be mortified too! 😉


    • Oh my gawd – I’m shocked that your neighbor said that to you. He obviously is not a dog-knower. When one really KNOWS an animal, one doesn’t make misjudgments like that. I’m kind of chuckling because that was such an awful thing for your neighbor to say. Takes all kinds is the nicest way to respond, I guess. (!)

      Liked by 1 person

  12. “dems fightin words in this house!! Our dogs are like our kids. They are spoiled and absolutely, positively have feelings and a personality and they grieve! 😦 When we lost our oldest Springer Spaniel last summer ’13, our other two dogs would not eat for two days. I had a commitment the night we had to put him to sleep so I went…I was a wreck, but I did what I needed to do and went home asap. My hubby (who was supposed to attend the same event) stayed home. “I can’t leave them here alone with Nash gone! I just can’t!” I had no choice, but at least one of us was able to be there. I still miss him terribly! Our little Yorkie used to sleep on the floor next to his big brother…. (the other Springer still loves his kennel) so when Nash passed away, he was back in the bed with us…and there he will stay! So yeah… I so get it! LOL! I have been in trouble with my guys more than once! ha ha! 🙂


    • Thanks for sharing your experiences with your special friends. Yes, that’s a great example of how animals express their pain in losing a loved one. And it’s another example of how animals LOVE.


    • I felt the same way when Mocha was in the vet hospital for four days. It felt so empty without her. She’s 12 and who knows how long she’ll be with us. Even though she can’t see much, she knows when I’m reaching for her leash! You can’t ask for more than that. 🙂


  13. I haven’t read the comments above, so please forgive me if I repeat something already said. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend the book, ‘The Art of Racing in the Rain.’ Look it up on Amazon. It’s a wonderful book!

    As for it’s ‘just a dog,’ I’ve never quite looked at any of my long-haired dachshunds as ‘just dogs.’ They are my companions, my loyal friends; they strive to make me smile when I am blue or feeling unwell – they seem to sense it and come to me like an ‘offering’ – giving me their sweet faces and smooth heads to caress. And it does make me feel better! They are my clowns, who make me giggle as they chase each other around the house. And when one of them passes on, they break my heart.

    More, so much more, than ‘just a dog.’

    Thanks for a great post!


    • And isn’t it amazing, how much a dog ADDS to the family? I loved watching my kids, and now my little grandchildren, kissing the family dog on the nose, cuddling up with their furry pet on the rug. Children communicate the best with an animal, because they haven’t learned (been taught yet) that dogs are a ‘just.’ Kids know that animals are full loving beings.


  14. Hell – I wish I could have a dog – my whole family is allergic to animals though. SO they would have to live outside – which would be pretty terrible for them when the snow comes. It is so unfair when people have an animal and work full time or spend a lot of time away from home travelling – as you say – they must get so lonely.


    • A friend who’s allergic to most dogs has a Portuguese water dog and LOVES him. Here’s some info: “Portuguese Water Dogs, as well as other single-coated breeds (Poodles, Bichon Frises, Kerry Blue Terriers, Wheaten Terriers, to name a few), do not have an undercoat that sheds. That undercoat shedding is what most people with allergies have problems with.” I found this interesting. But you’re right, leaving a pet home alone for hours is not fair.


      • Thank you 🙂
        See the conundrum comes in whereby – that is only the beginning RW 😉
        Aside from allergies – which makes it complicated enough – no walls on the property.
        Not enough income to properly take care of the creature if it fell ill – or for pet insurance – or even initial outlay.
        My three children would ADORE to have a puppy to love and cherish – and it comes up often – because it IS a very valuable part of life to share your home with a pet.
        Unfortunately some folks are simply not in the position to have that privilege these days.
        Which it is. A privilege to have the company of a creature. A lot of folks take it for granted and I belive that is why their is the neglect of these animals – people kinda expect it and do not look at the responsibility that goes along with it. A bit like people just willy nilly have children- for selfish reasons like claiming tax benefits…or because they are bored with life, and think they deserve to not be. SO they JUST get or just do. Ya know? without weighing up the angles and the motivations.
        As much as I would love to ‘have a doggy’ I would not want MY needs to put an animal in jeopardy because I am not in a position to take care of them properly. 😉 I think that makes sense?


          • As long as they understand reasons for things – they are fairly happy that I am their mom. As for me being lucky to have them? Yeah well – learned more being their mom then I would have any other way – can only hope they take the good and chuck the bad right?! 😛 lol!


  15. It’s clear you touched a nerve here!

    I’ve had rescue dogs all my life. Scrappy is my current and probably last one. He’s 13 but still spunky. Terrier mixes are built to last!

    I was away over the weekend and came home last night. Don’t tell me that dogs have no feelings! The normally aloof guy rubbed circles around me while he groaned and grunted his “I missed yous” and “I love yous” for about 5 minutes. Then he sat in front of me and gave me “what for” in his high-pitched “How could you leave me?” voice. Then all went back to normal.

    He’s not a lap dog, but he’s a shadow dog. He follows me from room to room. When I look up, he watching me. I think he thinks he has a job and her name is “Lorna.” ❤ 🙂


    • Ohhh, you’re bringing back my Henry’s voice. He ‘talked’ to me all the time, just as you’re describing your Scrappy. Visitors were always amazed at how he could make different intonations, depending on what he wanted to say.
      Enjoy your shadowy Scrappy – he sounds like a loving being.


  16. Never “just a dog!” Our Woody felt everything, even humiliation…his feelings ran deep. I remember when he was so old thathis hind legs had lost their strength, so squatting to do his duty was hard. Very hard. One day, in fact, he didn’t have the strength to right himself after he went poo, and before I could help him, he simply fell back into the mess. He felt as humiliated as any human would – made me cry.


  17. Great story here and yes, animals have feelings and yes, they will get even with their humans when they feel neglected or shunned, or ignored. Dogs and cats are intelligent beings and don’t ever sell them short.


    • How’d I miss this comment? (By moving from left coast to east coast this fall, I’d guess…). I’ve just blogged a post about emotions, and yes, I believe that dogs have lots of emotions, for sure! 🙂


  18. After having three dogs while I was in college and not having or taking the time to properly train them or exercise them,…., well, when they got out they just ran wild. I lived along the Willamette River in a two bedroom cabin (back in my hippie years) and it was in the midst of an agricultural area with most folks having other animals such as chickens, turkeys, sheep, etc. When my pack would return they many times brought with them the spoils of their journeys, which did not put me in good stead with my neighbors (being a pot smoking hippie didn’t help much either). When my wife and I moved out to New Jersey (with a properly shorn), I had to give my dogs up to friends since I knew they would not survive in an apartment. I swore I would not have another dog until I had the time to train and exercise properly.

    So, after a back surgery in 2006 the window of opportunity arose. Having had a series of strokes during the operation, my attitude toward continuing working took a nose dive. Being semi-retired and needing a bit of inspiration to get my rear in gear, I decided it was time to find a dog. My parents had had two black labs and they were both great dogs. Found a breeder in Lodi and off Christina and I trekked and soon had the cutest bundle of brown velvet furred Chocolate Lab. Lucky was my “recovery” dog in the broadest sense of the word. He helped me through the months of depression that the combination of back surgery and strokes will leave the strongest willed person suffering from.

    As the years have gone by, Lucky has become one of the family. He’s almost 8 years old and still goes what we term “nut puppy”. He’ll turn circles as fast as he can then run to the farthest part of the house and zoom back at full speed and do the circle thing again. Repeat until he tires. You cannot stay in a bad mood while watching that spectacle! As he’s gotten older he talks more and it usually gets very loud the closer he gets to his favorite destination be it the dog park, Mt. Wanda, Briones, or just going to the vets (yes, he loves the vet). He brings joy where ever he is. I’m not big on debating what and what not a dog feels or knows or senses, but I’m certain that he loves bringing joy into this world and one cannot ask for more than that in any creature, human or not.


    • Chuck – I just saw this comment in my “Henry” blog post. How I love your description of Lucky. I’m not sure who’s luckier, you or your gentle gorgeous joyful lab. It’s probably an even split.


    • I just saw your October comment here. So sorry, moving from one coast to another put me off balance. Yes, we are still mourning the loss of our golden (11 months now) and haven’t gotten another dog yet. But how wonderful would it be to add more love to the house?


  19. I really loved this story, and I relate to those feelings about dogs so well. It’s a long time since I’ve had a dog as a pet, but I haven’t forgotten those little ways she had of conveying her emotion – those terrible accidents!! And she was most definitely not ‘just a dog’! 🙂 I remember my Dad said that once when she appeared to getting ill, “Well, she’s just a dog.” the question came up of what would we do if she was slowly dying. She was okay, she recovered. But years later when she was very old and eventually did die – my Dad was the one who cried the most – she was part of the family and he was the one who had taken her on many long country walks – silly man, he was heartbroken! 😦

    I’ve bookmarked this for a future issue of The Writing Garden, would it be okay to publish this story? I’m sure so many owners of dogs, in fact any pet at all, would relate to this. It may be quite a while before I get back to you on this one as I’m trying to make each issue as varied as possible, (not repeat the same writers too often) but I will certainly come back to some writers again.
    Suzy 🙂


  20. Sorry it been ages in getting back to you on this post Pamela! 🙂 I’m currently revisiting some of the writers who whose writing appeared in the early issues of The Writing Garden – in order to include their writing again. I bookmarked this thoughtful post for future reference, it would be so good to publish this in the next issue if you are still interested?

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Pingback: The Writing Garden ~ Issue Eight | The Writing Garden

    • Thank you for finding this post, Glenda, back from 2016! I think I need to re-post it sometime. I miss my dogs so much (all gone now). My granddog Charlie is 14, gray and limping but still wagging his tail. And we have a 2-year-old Granddog Golden, Charlotte, who lives close by. Oh, how our dogs bring love and laughter to our lives!

      Liked by 1 person

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