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My dog Henry is not very big – 13 something pounds and a lot of that is fur. But Henry is my pal, and more than that we are related. He is a member of our family, he eats when we eat, he snoozes while we watch TV, and he sleeps at the foot of our bed. Some folks think we own Henry, and in a way we do. We own him in the same sense that families all own one another. We own Henry and Henry owns us.

But Henry and I have a relationship quite apart from the one he has with my wife. Since we’re both male, I understand Henry in ways his mother never will.

I know when he is bluffing, I know why he wants to pee on his doggie enemies’ lawns, and I love the little “you-want-a-piece-of-me” growl he does when he encounters one of them walking down the street.

I was a little boy once. I know how it is. Human boys and dog boys have no social skills. Over time, human boys can learn them, dog boys never do.

So Henry and I are pals, but our relationship goes much deeper than that. In many ways Henry is my guru and confidant, and I am his. He has enabled me to see the world in wondrous ways that I had never seriously considered before he joined the family. And I do my best to keep him out of trouble

Henry obviously is not able to speak English, although sometimes I do believe he merely chooses not to do so. Communication with Henry tends to be through barks and growls, and little yips and stubborn poses that say, we’re not going anywhere until you respond appropriately. And over time, I have come to understand his wants, his needs, and his intent.

Henry, for instance, thinks everything that moves is alive. Sometimes the world is almost motionless, but on a windy day, the entire neighborhood is brimming with energy. The trees sway back and forth, sometimes the leaves jump off and scurry down the street, even the grass and the tall plants get into the act.

After a couple of years watching Henry react to the world coming alive, I began to see it differently as well. Butterflies and Japanese beetles and lizards that dart into the bushes as we walk by are all around us. The world is teeming with life and it’s impossible to spend quality time with Henry and not see it for myself.

Cars also are alive for Henry and so are golf carts and bicycles. They are all friendly beasts of burden, who carry humans and often dogs and other animals from place to place. When another dog comes riding by, hanging its head out of the window, Henry barks at him, much as he would if the dog was walking down the street.

It’s almost as though Henry doesn’t really understand that the dog is not driving the vehicle. In fact, he also is not clear on the concept when we are riding in our car, and he thinks it would be a splendid idea to sit on my lap so we could enjoy our ride together.

One of the other great things about Henry is that he has no guile. He doesn’t know how to be polite. If he is sitting on my lap and somebody comes into the room that he would rather be with, he merely jumps off my lap and goes over to her.

The result is that Henry is both a very honest and completely amoral little being. Hypocrisy is a foreign concept to him. There are some dogs he likes, and some dogs that he hates, merely based on how they look. He doesn’t like dogs whose hair hangs down over their eyes, he doesn’t like black dogs, he doesn’t like dogs who get near his mom, and he doesn’t like dogs who invade his space.

He also hates cats, squirrels, rats, and crows.

What he does like are other Yorkies, who look like him, but are usually a bit smaller. That may make him a doggie racist and politically off the map, but he doesn’t seem to care. As far as Henry is concerned, he is who he is with no apologies to anybody.

The other thing that Henry likes are humans of all races, creeds, and sex. That’s probably because he has never met a human who was mean to him, who didn’t want to feed him, or cuddle him in their arms.

And if I have anything to do with it, he never will.

George Lee Cunningham

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