Some dogs are “dog dogs”—given a choice between playing with dogs or people, they’ll choose their fellow canines every time. Other dogs are “people dogs”—they prefer people.
Galen has always been a people dog. I often think she’s downright rude to dogs who introduce themselves to her—she may allow them a quick sniff nose to nose or nose to you-know-where, but then she walks away. And it literally pains me when a friendly dog tries to engage her in play and her response is the canine equivalent of the cold shoulder. I often yell, “Go! Play! Be a dog!”, but she doesn’t listen.
Which is why Galen’s whole-hearted love for doggy day care might seem nonsensical. I mean, what is doggy day care but a gathering of canines of every size, age, and energy level? Of course, a group of canines, like any group of young kids, requires adult supervision, and therein lies the root of Galen’s devotion.
When I picked up Galen from day care the other night, Mark, one of the adults Galen has wrapped around her little gray paw, handed me a folded sheet of paper. I instinctively looked at Galen and asked, What did you do? It was a natural reaction, I suppose, because when a hand-written letter comes home from your dog’s daycare provider—much like when one comes home from your kid’s school—you assume someone got herself into a bit of trouble.
It’s been several years since I received a note about Galen. When she began attending day care five years ago—she was five months old—the notes came regularly. Mostly they were about her “accidents.” Galen didn’t, and still doesn’t, like peeing anywhere but our backyard. Now that she’s comfortable at day care she relieves herself there, but in those first months she refused. So come afternoon, while resting or napping on the floor, muscles relaxed, she’d release small puddles of pee—and I’d read about it.
I said good-bye to Mark, and per my routine, I grabbed some pieces of dried hot dog from the cookie jar atop the counter. I fed them to Galen, and we left. When we got home, I read the letter.
I just thought it would make you happy to hear that Galen was extra playful today at daycare, especially in the morning. She was playing a lot with the other dogs. She loved the Frisbee, and played tug with a few friends. Usually she likes playing and getting pets from her human friends, but today she had lots of fun with her doggie friends. It made me happy to see, and I thought it might make you happy also. –Nicole
When I teach Introduction to Journalism, I often use the example journalism instructors have long used to explain to students why some events are newsworthy and some are not: Dog bites man isn’t a story, I tell students. It happens all the time. Now, man bites dog… that’s a story!
Nicole’s note reminded me about that lesson. Galen’s playing with other dogs was so unusual, so out of the ordinary, that Nicole wrote me a story about it. And she was right, it did make me happy.
I like dogs. I want my dog to like them, too.
Jacki Skole is an award-winning journalist, author and adjunct professor of communication. A graduate of the University of Michigan and Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, she spent a decade as a writer and producer at CNN before turning to teaching. Jacki launched WRITE Now to assist students in writing the college application essays that will chart their future. Read More...