My father had many wonderful qualities: patience, humility, courage, fortitude, and a strong sense of duty and loyalty to his country, community, family, and friends, to name a few. He also had the gift of empathy, which we children somehow knew but perhaps did not appreciate fully until we discovered his high school yearbook after his death. Beneath his name the yearbook editors had printed this brief and telling description: “A heart big enough for everybody.” For all his virtues, though, Dad was not a dog person. He did not dislike dogs but claimed to be ambivalent about them. Yet, because he so keenly felt and understood his children’s love for dogs, we always had a dog while we were growing up. Of course, this was possible only because Dad willingly took on the multitude of responsibilities of dog ownership that young children (or forgetful and distracted teens) cannot quite handle. And in the years after we became adults with our own families–including dogs–Dad always welcomed a succession of dogs as holiday visitors to our family home. As a father who understood well the nature of devotion, he had no doubt come to admire the model of loyalty that is the essence of a dog’s life. Call it inspiration: he had become devoted to them because of his–and their–devotion to us.
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