Amid ‘Dog Days of Summer,’ a Salute to Our Canine Friends

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Greg Markley

By GREG MARKLEY

OPINION —

The Statue of Liberty poem, “The New Colossus”, under the slogan “Liberty Enlightening the World”, is now a global icon dealing with immigrants and their opportunities for success in the U.S. The poem ends like this: “…Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Words written in 1883 by Emma Lazarus still resonate for legal immigrants today. They can also be cited for people who adopt rescued or abandoned animals and make them beloved pets. I wrote a column “On Pets, Not Politics” for The Observer’s July 15, 2021, issue. Go to https://opelikaobserver.com/greg-markley to find it. In that column, I discussed seven cats adopted at various times, who brought me joy. In 2022, I salute four dogs that my wife and I adopted from Dr. Buddy Bruce, veterinarian.

President Ford with his golden retriever, Liberty.

The domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) descends from the wolf, and the wolf of today is dog’s nearest living relative, wrote Adam Freeman and Robert Wayne in a 2017 journal article, “Deciphering the Origins of Dogs: From Fossils to Genomes”. The dog was the first species to be domesticated, 15,000 years ago, before even agriculture began. Dogs are known as capable guides and protectors, full of loyalty, faithfulness, affection and love.

I became a dog “father” in June 2001 by marriage. Dog-daddy was a new role for me. The female was named Belle, as in “Southern Belle.” A Border Collie, she was energetic and loved the outdoors. She hunted chipmunks and squirrels. My wife was her “mama” for 18 years, beginning when Belle was just a pup. They were wonderful times for both. Belle died peacefully, and my wife told her brother that “Belle was the best gift you ever gave me.”

The second dog was a rescue, and when he got out of our car after being cooped-up, he ran with abandon through the grass, front and back. We named him Beau in keeping with the “Belle” theme, this time with a male dog. We had Beau for four years, but early one morning I found him dead, and we didn’t know why because there were no indications of a problem.

We didn’t know if he had been poisoned, bitten by a deadly snake, shot or what. So, I brought the body to the AU Necropsy (animal autopsy) lab. It took a few weeks, but that’s understandable for a busy research center. Finally, we were told Beau had an undetected heart problem. At least we found out the cause, and it’s likely he died quickly with a heart failure. We left a big stone with his leash at the spot where he died, as a reminder of him.

For two years, Beau had enjoyed the company of another male dog. That happened after we heard a big dog near Columbus, Georgia, needed new owners. The dog, a Giant Long-Haired German Shepherd, appropriately called Bear, was at home all day, and in a carrier because those owners wanted him at home while they were working.

The owners were delighted we had enough acreage and pet experience to give Bear a nice home life and a good-sized outside play area. Children walking by our home would see big Bear, and they thought he was really a bear. He was a gentle giant, and our lives were enriched by having him with us for five years.

After Beau died suddenly, and a year later Bear left us (big dogs normally don’t live past age 11 or 13 — Bear died at age 10), we missed them but took a break from other dogs to mourn Beau and Bear. Some weeks later, we picked out a rescue dog at the vets’ that was taken from owners who mistreated her.

We named her Emma in honor of a neighbor our family had. She is a German Shepherd with Labrador Retriever aspects. At first, Emma was ill-at-ease around humans and too quiet. Yet, she turned out to be one of the most loving and enjoyable dogs we rescued. She is also an accomplished small animal hunter and a very good gate guard.

I use a nickname for Emma, as “Emma Lazarus,” to remind myself of the legal immigrants who came here and read the great poem at the Statue of Liberty. Like immigrants, Emma and our other dogs were afraid when they joined us. So were our rescued cats acquired over many years.

Animals are not often welcomed to America at the Statue of Liberty, as millions of people were and many more are now. Yet, many thousands of potentially wonderful pets call out for freedom from a pound or the streets. Please, please say at an animal shelter: “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I will save and treasure them.”

Greg Markley moved to Lee County in 1996. He has master’s degrees in education and history. He taught politics as an adjunct in Georgia and Alabama. An award-winning writer in the Army and civilian life, he has contributed to the Observer since 2011. He is a member of the national Education Writers Association (focus-Higher Education). gm.markley@charter.net.

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