Dog (and cat and bird and horse) days
Went over to my brother’s house recently to say hi and drink his beer and, whoa, there’s this dog there — a happy floundering mass of jaunty angles and puppy skittishness, warping the entire familial energy field with waves of unconditional trust and love. He’s this sharp-snouted, doe-eyed monster of undiluted cute; looks like an albino bear freshly stepped out of a children’s book. All he wants to do is nuzzle.
“We heard this whimpering at our front door one evening, and there he was,” my brother said. “I think someone abandoned him.”
He and his wife launched the standard Samaritan campaign. They checked for a microchip, papered the neighborhood with “found dog” flyers, and asked around. No luck. As the days went by, they fed him and played with him, and the great insinuation began as the stray slowly corkscrewed his way into their hearts. Next thing you know, they’re getting him neutered, defragging him at the vet, and taking that all-important step that suggests this pup might be in for an extended stay at Chez Bro: They named him. The snowy-furred beast is now (ta-da!) Alaska. My brother is doing the grumbling, reluctant dad thing all through this, but I suspect it’s a front that’s slowly melting. I’ve totally caught him gazing upon Alaska with affection. Busted.
Sure, pets do a lot for us — they comfort and entertain, pull off cool tricks and never, ever fail to look hilarious in hats. But there’s something more substantial to their appeal. In catching our hearts unawares, pets surprise us by provoking our kindness, our nobility, our willingness to put up with hair all over the couch — by teasing out the better instincts that make us better people.
That’s why our pet issue is more than just a lolcats charm parade. Rather, we want to celebrate the deep companionship between humans and animals — which is exactly what we do on page 40 in “Creatures of Comfort.” The creatures in question are both humans and animals who serve, heal and reassure on either end of the leash. And for your own special critter, we’ve got a useful resource guide on page 53 that will have your pet pawing happily on cloud nine, with everything from dog-park picks to obedience classes to pet sitters and pet hotels. And check out our experiential tour of the dog exercise craze on page 24; we shouldn’t forget that truly pampering your pet involves some panting as well. As vets and trainers often say, a tired pet is a good pet. And we suspect this issue will make for plenty of tuckered-out animals — dog, cat, human and more.
Pardon my reach while I pat ourselves on the back — in particular, Chris Smith’s back. The Western Publishing Association honored our tireless Desert Companion art director with a 2012 Maggie Award last month for Best Editorial Layout for our April 2011 feature, “ 15 Great Hikes (Practically) in Your Own Backyard.” Not only did Chris trek out to all these places to take some beautiful photos, but he packaged it all in an eye-catching design worthy of Southern Nevada’s natural beauty.