Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

December 4, 2013

RAY MOSCOWITZ: Man's best friend? You better believe it

'Unconditional love' of dogs can make stresses cease.

MC Weekly

---- — A dog is a man’s best friend.

So goes the expression that came about in 1870, according to Wikipedia. That’s when George Vest, a Missouri lawyer, represented a client who alleged his foxhound was killed by a sheep farmer. The dog’s owner sued for damages — the maximum of $50 — and during his closing argument, Vest reportedly said a dog is a man’s best friend.

That hasn’t been the case for me. When I was 8 years old, I got bitten by a neighbor’s dog, which resulted in rabies shots. Yeah, they hurt like …

Understandably, I’ve had a fear of dogs for decades, but it has waned in recent years. Meanwhile, I’ve seen evidence the expression has validity.

For example, friends in southern California are mourning the death of their dachshund, Molly — so much so, their distress has been palpable.

A medical problem makes it difficult for the woman to use her hands. But the malady didn’t stop her from making “a sweet little coffin for Molly — all pink (her favorite color) and white lacy and softest things.”

Molly’s passing reminded me of another dachshund worshipped by its owners, Joe and Jody Slacian. Joe is a longtime newspaper colleague.

Like others who are my Facebook friends, Joe regularly posts things about dogs, specifically his dachshund, Payton.

Joe is a big Chicago Bears fan from The Region. So when the Slacians’ daughters gave him a dachshund for Christmas in 2004, he said they could name him Walter or Payton — after the great Bears running back.

“No matter what kind of day I've had at the office,” Joe says, “I can always count on a wagging tail and a few slobbery kisses from him when I get home and it helps make the problems fade away, at least temporarily.”

Along with others on Facebook, I also hear regularly from Cathy Converse, who handles marketing/customer relations at Radel Wine Racks & Wood Products Inc. in Peru. Cathy and I go way back to our days at the Peru Tribune.

When I inquired about her two dogs, she responded: “Two words sum it up: unconditional love. They are the last to watch me leave in the morning and are the first to welcome me home with their wonderful howling as if saying, ‘Mommy’s home!’ … I can have a terrible day at work, but all I have to do is look into their eyes and my heart melts. Our dogs aren’t property, they are part of our family. They are my canine babies.”

There must be something special about dachshunds, because one of Cathy’s two canines is one.

“We have Sasha, our strong-willed, sassy short-haired dachshund, who pretty much rules the roost,” Cathy says. “They say dachshunds are ‘A BIG dog in a little package,’ and it fits her perfectly. Dachshunds were originally bred to chase badgers out of their dens, so they’re pretty tough! From the moment my husband, Tom, brought a picture of her and her litter mates, I fell in love with her.”

I have witnessed the kind of devotion shown to Payton, Sascha and the now-gone Molly with my son David’s family. First there was Bailey, a beagle, who was therapeutic for me.

When I asked David how old Bailey was when he died, he responded precisely: “4 days shy of 15.” David’s family mourned Bailey for about a year before getting a black lab rescue pup they named Vinnie. He’s a big feller now, but I am comfortable around him.

My daughter-in-law Leigh has a special place in her heart for dogs, too. Several years ago, on her way to a job interview at the Bloomington Herald-Times, she came across a dog running loose on Ind. 37.

Never mind that she was all dressed up, she stopped and rescued the dog — another beagle! — which David and Leigh eventually adopted. Her dress got a little soiled, but she got the job.

And then there’s my niece Gayle in California, who posted on Facebook this printed T-shirt offered by “I Love My Dog”:

“The more PEOPLE I meet, the more I LOVE my dog.”

Undoubtedly, some of you — if not most — have best-friend stories, too. Feel free to share them.

Ray Moscowitz of Bloomington is a retired newspaper executive and former publisher of the Peru Tribune. Contact him at r.mosco@comcast.net.