His name is Moose. I don’t know much about him. We were first introduced yesterday evening when he pressed his cold nose against my skin, which is the age-old gesture of friendship between dogs and humans.
Moose is roughly two-foot tall with a short tail, black muzzle, wide-set eyes, brindle coat, and linen-white paws. He’s a boxer, and he has a temperament so calm he makes the Pope look like a troublemaker.
Moose belongs to our friends, Steve and Elvira. My wife and I were at our friends’ house celebrating New Year’s last night. All evening I was transfixed by Moose because, judging by the look on his face, he didn’t understand what we were celebrating. I guess Moose has never heard of New Year’s Day.
“It’s New Year’s, Moose,” I explained. “Are you gonna wish me happy New Year?”
Moose blinked once. Then he licked himself and left the room.
Because, hey, he’s not here to participate in our weird human holidays. No, Moose is merely an observer within frantic People World.
Although from the corner of my eye I could see the old boy paying attention to our peopleish conversations with genuine interest. He looked like a spectator at a tennis match. His head would move left, then right. Left. Right. Left. Then he’d pause to do more intimate grooming.
We humans were having some animated discussions too. We were talking about things like pandemics, and problems the virus has created. And we talked about the New Year, and how 2021 is going to be a better year.
The whole time, Moose just watched us. Because for dogs, you see, there is no such thing as pandemics or New Year’s Day. In fact, to a dog there is no yesterday, no next week, and no 2021. There is simply right now.
A dog’s world involves no clocks or calendars. It’s nothing but food, naps, and visits to the yard to make sure your favorite tree gets peed on.
This is why it amazes me that Man and Dog have been friends for so long. We couldn’t be more different. And yet archaeologists estimate that we have been besties for nearly 32,000 years.
I wonder if deep within the recesses of a dog’s ancient DNA there is a memory of the way Earth used to be, before our friendship. I wonder if dogs have dim recollections of an age before lightbulbs, before Roman Empires, Greek tunics, and The Lawrence Welk Show.
Before our friendship, the canine’s forebears were savage animals. And in a way, so were humans. Dog and Man were competitors for the same food sources, so they hated each other. Man thought dogs were vicious and untamed. Dogs thought men were untrustworthy and smelled like toe jam.
But at some point in history, everything changed. The gap between two species was crossed, and I imagine this moment must have been majestic.
Maybe it happened late one night. Maybe one of our early human ancestors sat on the edge of a canyon, staring at an ancient nightscape. Maybe it was a little boy. Maybe this child had been crying.
Perhaps a wolf happened upon this human by accident. And maybe this canine was like all dogs and could not bear to see a human weep. The old animal might have been thinking to itself, “What a poor little boy.”
Poor indeed. This boy might have been an emotional wreck because his mother died from a fever. Or his father might have been killed during a hunt. Maybe the boy was wounded, or hungry, or lonely. The world wasn’t exactly a happy-go-lucky place.
Either way, the canine must have felt something akin to actual sympathy. And maybe it was enough compassion to make the animal do something about it. Because on this blessed night, so many moons ago, something happened. The first human held out his hand, and the first pup wandered from the woods to press its cold nose against soft human skin.
And do you know what’s funny? The canine could not have picked a more misguided, disloyal pal than mankind. We humans turned out to be real pieces of work.
We were creatures whose instincts were always to advance, kill, make war, and above all, purchase real estate with a water view.
Dogs should have left us humans in the dust long ago; we didn’t deserve their companionship. For crying out loud, we upended the entire earth just so we could build stuff, tear the same stuff down, build more stuff, tear it down too, then put in a TJ Maxx. “More, more, more,” that was mankind’s motto.
The dog should have made buddies with the hippopotamus, the giraffe, or at the very least, the chinstrap penguin. But the dog chose you and me.
For millennia the canine remained steadfast. A noble hound sat within our ancestor’s hearth, the dog watched our forefathers go from wearing loin cloths to Levis.
And no matter how often we humans made godless mistakes, indulged our own vanities, butchered our fellow men in battle, stirred up new conflicts, or built ugly strip malls, the dog stuck around.
And I think that’s remarkable.
Anyway, the New Year’s dinner was fun. After supper we all said “Happy New Year” to each other in the driveway. We shook hands, we embraced, we promised that this was going to be an outstanding year. And we hoped what we promised would somehow be true.
And although Moose didn’t understand my farewell words to him, his small tail began to wag. Before I climbed into our vehicle I held out my hand and called his name. Moose knew exactly what to do. He came trotting toward me to offer the most sincere and guileless greeting of his kind.
He pressed a cold nose against my skin. “Happy New Year,” I believe he was saying.
I wish I could be as faultless as a dog.
Verna Montgomery - January 2, 2021 7:04 am
Good Story.I love my dogs……
Rob - January 2, 2021 7:07 am
Beautiful bro. We had to put our baby down December 6th.. after a good 11 year friendship. Things aren’t the same around here. There’s a void now. I never realized how much brightness she brought into our lives. Stay blessed, man. And keep telling your stories.
Jennifer - January 2, 2021 8:37 am
A dog….the most unconditional love ever. And if ever we needed unconditional love and a wet nose, it is right now. Thank you our sweet Baylee girl.
Gay Talbott - January 2, 2021 12:11 pm
Thank you Sean. A person can learn a lot from a dog, They teach you about living each day with joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. They teach you to appreciate the simple things – a walk in the neighborhood, the lake or beach, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight, just being in the same room brings peace. And as they grow old and achy, they teach you about optimism in the face of adversity.
Mostly, they teach you about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty and love if we open our hearts and listen.
Joann Thompson - January 2, 2021 1:11 pm
Thank you for your essays. I always know that I will feel better when I read them.
nancydormanhickson - January 2, 2021 1:16 pm
I love your writing. You are really talented. These words upset me, however: “We shook hands, we embraced, we promised that this was going to be an outstanding year.” We’re in a pandemic and the only method we have to slow it down is to avoid being around folks except at six feet and to wear masks. I truly love your writing. But this made me really sad that you and your wife and your friends are ignoring the pandemic and that you’re implying it’s okay for others to do that. It’s not.
Alice - January 2, 2021 1:29 pm
Dear Sean I love this story❤️Happy New Year God bless you ❤️❤️
Robert Smyth - January 2, 2021 1:57 pm
What a wonderful story. Thank You
Debbie g - January 2, 2021 1:59 pm
I too believe dogs were put here help to teach us unconditional love have great 2021 love your stories and you and Jamie happiest year to all
Bob - January 2, 2021 2:06 pm
Truly “Man’s best friend”! They love us no matter what’s going on in the world. My youngest son who’s the smartest of our five boys, he still has his one sister who he has not caught. He says old people which I am becoming live longer if they have a pet, makes sense to me. Nothing better than a loving dog! Just scratch their head, pat them on the back, rub them under the chin and feed them! Low maintenance and always there to cheer their owners up ⬆️ ❤️🐕🐩🦮🐕🦺
Linda Foshee - January 2, 2021 3:10 pm
Beautiful thoughts. I hope the New Year will bring a kinder more compassionate world, not only in our relationships with humanity but also in our attitudes toward the non humans that grace our world. We have much to learn from the “Moose’s” in the world. I enjoy your columns.
Beryl - January 2, 2021 3:15 pm
Have you considered that the entire evening was spent masked? Touching people does not give you Covid or AIDS. I’m a massage therapist and I am very healthy. I work with a mask on and my clients are also masked. I wash my hands gratuitously. Masks and hand washing are the two most import barriers to the Corona virus, influenza, and many other viruses and illnesses. You know what we cannot live “well” without? Human or dog interactions. You know what we cannot live “well” with…FEAR. This one emotion, often based on false information, is what motivates many of our decisions. Take a deep breath and practice the protocols mentioned above and ENJOY YOUR LIFE!
sallie - January 2, 2021 4:18 pm
Just discovered your blog and podcast from Emily P. Freeman’s blog! What a perfect introduction for me is today’s blog on Moose and our dog/human relationships! You’ve just gained another follower and fan! My children are furry & four-legged! Couldn’t do life without them especially the year we just completed! Thank you!
Linda Moon - January 2, 2021 5:55 pm
Gosh. It’s the second day of 2021. I know and love a Moose in my family. He is not a dog. Virgil from our family was not a rooster. Our Virgil and Moose were/are of the People World. You may not be as faultless as a dog, Sean, but you’ve brought much happiness to my days and will continue to into this New Year: 2021. Gosh!
Karen Howard-Goss - January 2, 2021 7:06 pm
Just shows we’re all different-I love every single column. In this particular piece, what made you sad was my favorite part. Happy Nee Year, Nancy 🙂
Karen Howard-Goss - January 2, 2021 7:08 pm
Sue Cummings - January 2, 2021 7:39 pm
Sean, I am a new “follower” of your posts–thanks to my sister who thinks you are very talented–and I wholeheartedly agree! Awesome!
Christopher Spencer - January 2, 2021 9:52 pm
Amen Sean. I am 66 years old and I can honestly say that the best friend I have had in all those 66 years was my bestest old buddy an sweetest old baby Ben, my Lab mix who passed away September 1, 2020 after 12 1/2 beautiful years together.
That isn’t knock against any of my human friends. It is just that Ben was the most loyal, faithful, trustworthy and loving creature of God that I have ever been blessed to know. Dogs could teach us a lot about what unconditional love really looks like.
Bill - January 3, 2021 12:17 am
Dogs and other pets are amazing. You have to wonder what they are thinking or feeling. We, my wife, has a cat. This animal will lay on the bed and stare at the same spot on the wall for hours. I can’t do that for 40 seconds. What are they thinking? Yet, that cat will snuggle up to my wife, after all it is her cat, not mine. Now if it was a dog it would be different. When I was a kid we had 2 German Shepherds. Those were beautiful animals. One pet, even if it is a cat, is enough.
elizabethroosje - January 3, 2021 3:05 am
Loved this! Yep. Dogs are amazing and humbling to be with! Happy New Year Sean and Jamie! I hope it will be a gentle one for you both! and Mother Mary and any and all of your family!
Richard Cobb - January 3, 2021 5:28 am
Three or four thousand years ago a boy died ,possibly from a fall from nearby limestone cliffs, in a place we now call Lauderdale County, Alabama. When his parents and other relatives buried him, in a cave we now call Dust Cave, they buried a dog- it must have been “his dog” – with him. They had killed the dog by driving a spear point into his spine at the back of his neck. When we excavated the dog burial in 1989 , the dog’s skull was still twisted to the right,the direction from which the spear came. My wife and I were very moved by this ancient demonstration of the bond between a boy- he was maybe twelve- and his dog. Boys and dogs haven’t changed much since the Archaic period of The American Indian.
Alex Locke - January 3, 2021 9:20 pm
There is one clock dogs follow: dinner time! 😉
Linda - January 3, 2021 10:11 pm
You l know what “they” say. When you see cats staring at cone place for a good period of time, they’re busy running the universe. After all, in ancient Egypt they were
worshipped as gods. That’s pretty heady stuff.
Suzanne W - January 4, 2021 3:07 pm
We have had five Boxers and have grieved the passing of four. They raised our children, protected us and gave us unconditional love. I say they are the glue that holds us together. They are so sensitive to our emotions and health. They strive to please and thrive on love. They just want to be with you and be loved. I swear our current one, Molly,
can understand everything we say, hence we spell a lot. I thank God for her every day. Her unconditional love and cute little head turns when we talk to her just melt my heart. I don’t think it was an accident that dog is God spelled backward.
Judith Frost Treadaway - January 4, 2021 5:35 pm
Sean, I am 83 and have “owned” dogs my entire life. This morning, I read your article about Moose on the heals of having to put down my 13 and 1/2 year old Sally, a German Shorthaired Pointer, three days after Christmas.
Sally came to live with us at the age of 8 weeks. During her lifetime, she was trained and hunted by my husband the first two years of her life. Then, she and I lost our beloved Roscoe in 2009. Since that time, she has gone through a move from our lovely home (with two doggie doors) into an apartment near our two daughters. Sally has seen the two of us through good times and bad times, 2020 having been the worst year for both of us. We lost my younger daughter, my sister, my brother-in-law…..how could anything be any worse than losing so many members of our family? Then, on December 23, Sally began her exit into the Rainbow Bridge. During those five days of that exist, she stopped eating, lost control of bodily functions, and collapsed several times during our walks. Even though Sally had to be suffering so much, she continued her “job” of taking care of me, following my steps, making sure I was safe in the bathroom, guarding me twenty-four hours a day. Then, the morning of the 28th, I could no longer allow her to go through the pain she had to be experiencing. My son-in-law, the husband of my daughter who died of cancer in July 2020, Sally, and I made her last trip to her doctor. My other daughter, my son-in-law, and I gathered around Sally until and after her last breath. Do I miss her? Horribly, sadly, and with a great deal of grief, I do, but I know she is in a better place and possibly bouncing around the clouds hunting birds, doing her job, with Roscoe behind her.
Juiie - January 31, 2021 4:52 pm
A dog is indeed “a man’s best friend!” No matter how bad or long your day was, your dog is ALWAYS excited to see you at the end of it…Unconditional Love at its finest🐾❣️🐾