Dogs are good people

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Meet Morrie

This submission is by Lisa Marchand, whose everyday Hero Dog is Morrie, a Golden Retriever.

My Dog is My Hero Because…

The decision to bring a dog into my home came not of my own volition, but at the request of my then 8 year old son. Four years earlier my
son had been badly bitten by a dog owned by a friend of a friend, sort of confirming my belief then that cats were easier to deal with when you have
small children. The attack resulted in numerous stitches along my son’s scalp,
and some lifelong scars, luckily visible only if he decides to shave his head. I
was afraid that my son would always be fearful of dogs after that incident and
indeed about a year before he decided he wanted a dog he was chased down the
street by a neighborhood dog, scaring him but not hurting him physically. I
think, though, he was really too young to remember much about that attack and
subsequent stitches and thankfully a fear of dogs never developed. So when he asked
us to get a dog the only question I had was “What kind?”

We talked about dogs, read up on dogs and came to the
conclusion that a Golden Retriever would be a good fit for us. We found a
backyard breeder who was selling puppies we could afford and drove an hour from
home to find our new friend. Going to a home with a litter of puppies is an
experience in joy and confusion. Puppies have so much energy, so much joy and
of course an overwhelming amount of cuteness, how can you pick just one?! In
the end, though, the dog we came home with picked my son, not the other way
around and I think that is what made him a truly extraordinary dog and great
friend to us for almost 9 years.

As a puppy and young dog, Morrie loved playing in the back
yard with “his boy.” Tackling and wrestling over a toy was a favorite game,
along with catching snowballs and playing keep away. He tried valiantly to make
friends with our two cats but in the end they learned to co-exist by each ignoring
the presence of the other. Although Mo would still wag his tail and greet the
cats each morning as they walked by, even if they continued to ignore him. He
seemed to think it was important to be hospitable, after all they were there
before him.

When we left Ohio for Pennsylvania, Morrie traveled with us,
of course; and a few years later he made the trek across the country when we
left Pennsylvania for California. I still laugh at the pictures of my husband
& son in a packed car complete with two cats and a dog in the back seat,
crossing the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains. Like everything else, Mo took
traveling in stride never seeming to mind the long boring stretches of road. He
seemed to understand that they were on an adventure and took every opportunity
out of the car to sniff and explore taking in the new sights and smells.

Morrie’s first encounter with a Pacific Ocean was a fun one.
He had never seen water come up at you like that and at first he ran away. But being
the trooper he was, he went back in and checked it out, decided it was harmless
and dove in. After that, walks along the beach with Mo required a ball be
thrown into the surf again and again. It was good to see him on the beach with
so much energy because it was becoming clear to me that Morrie was now an
elderly dog. His hips bothered him if we walked too long and he slept a lot
more than he had in the past. Still he would get excited about going outside for
a walk, whining if I took too long to get my shoes on and collect the necessary
accessories for our excursion.  And he would
plop his head in my lap when he needed to make a point about my being waaaay
too boring staring at the computer or TV screen.  

What I grew to appreciate about dogs by living with Morrie
is the way they live in the moment. The way they greet each day, each moment
exactly the same as if all is new and all is
. Morrie loved all of us as much as we loved him. He loved the cats
even if they pretended he wasn’t there. And he was happy to meet new people or
to let them pass when it was clear they were not happy to meet him, Morrie didn’t
judge. It didn’t matter to him if they liked him or not. He would take what was
there and be happy with it. My husband and I used to say that we don’t do
things Morrie’s way, Morrie is the

When Morrie got sick it broke my heart. Suddenly my happy
dog that always heartily enjoyed a meal stopped eating. He stopped greeting me
at the door and stopped caring when I was boring. He slept, mostly on the patio
outside not wanting to be inside any longer than necessary. He seemed to be
telling us that it was time to let him go and little by little I accepted the
fact that we would have to have our friend put to sleep. My daughter and son
came home from college and hung out with us and Mo on the patio; they headed
back to school knowing that they would never see the dog that picked us again.

We have another dog now, a 7 month old black Labrador
Retriever who fills our home with puppy exuberance and tries our patience with
his need for attention and redirection; but wrapped up inside all that energy
is a sweetness and desire to please that I have seen before. I notice it every
time I make him sit and “watch me,” instead of that new dog coming down the
path. Maybe it’s the Retriever face, the soft brown eyes, the way he greets
each and every day with joy and energy; the way he won’t give up trying to
befriend the cats who now live on the other side of a metal gate, protection
from Smitty’s “exuberance.”

When I began searching for another dog to help mend my
broken heart I decided as much as I loved them, I could not have another Golden
looking back at me, at least not now. That would be too much like trying to
replace something that isn’t replaceable. I remembered that as a kid I tried to
talk my parents into getting a Lab, so this was my chance to get one. I found a
breeder with dogs in a price range I could afford. My husband and I checked out
the puppies and were overwhelmed by the cuteness, the energy and the games of
tug with my sweatshirt jacket sleeve. We put down a deposit and came back a
week later when the puppies were ready to leave the litter. We talked with the breeder
about the dogs, how long he has been breeding Labs, what he likes about the
breed, etc. What we learned startled me a bit. The breeder is originally from
Northeast Ohio, like I am. He started breeding dogs years ago when he still
lived in Ohio and his business retains the name Buzzard Hill for the yearly
return of Buzzards to Hinkley, Ohio where is first farm was — Smitty has an
Ohio link. More to the point, Smitty was born the day after Morrie died, when I
realized that I was floored. Do I think Smitty has Morrie’s spirit? Who knows,
and the fact is that really doesn’t matter. What’s important is that my life
and the life of my family was touched by the good soul Morrie had. Smitty being
born the day after Mo left is probably more a sign of how important it is to me
to have the company of a dog in my life, for I truly believe that dogs are good

Now I spend my time working with the pooch, training him,
walking him and trying — albeit sometimes in vain — to expend some of his
puppy energy. You see I have plans for Smitty, and I’m pretty sure he has plans
for me too.

Learn more about the Hero Dog Awards.

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