Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dads and Dogs

One of the perks of buying overpriced medical insurance is I receive a bi-monthly newsletter with tips to live a healthy lifestyle.  The cover story in the recent issue supplies five tips to being a super dad.  They are:

1.      Be a team
2.      Spend time with your children
3.      Chat
4.      Guide with love
5.      Show affection

I have two points of reference on this subject, having had one and being one.  I will start with my dad.  My dad played the traditional team role of the era by being the provider and sometimes stern disciplinarian.  He spent a great deal of time with us teaching baseball and coaching our teams.  There was always plenty to talk about, especially baseball.  As an educator, he always wanted updates of our school progress at the supper table.  He showed his love and affection through actions instead of physical gestures.  I also took the role of provider, but seldom the disciplinarian.  My dad may have spanked me once or twice, but if he did, he must have been lame because those memories have faded away.  I never spanked my children, instead I perfected the look that projected disappointment and it was just as or more effective than corporal punishment.  I was the bedtime story parent, the sports coach that went to every dance and choir recital.  Dinner was always at the kitchen table and we all discussed our day.  My mom taught me the art of love and affection, she was definitely the nurturer.  As wicked as my disappointment look could be, I could freely display my dad pride and love for my children.   I became much more of an initiator of hugs as a dad than my dad ever did.        

On the side column of the newsletter, next to the dad advice article, were rules for being a good dog.  As I recall, none of the mutts who have owned me have been able to read, but it sure is nice to know my insurance company feels compelled to offer them advice with my premium dollars.  I read these rules to my fury best friend:

1.      Live in the moment
2.      Take a nap and sleep hard
3.      Discover the simple joy of a long walk
4.      Celebrate each snack with anticipation
5.      Get outside as much as possible
6.      Greet everyone always, no matter long they have been gone
7.      If you love someone, show your affection

Apparently it is more difficult to be a dog than a good dad because there are more guidelines for our canine friends.  Some of the tips overlap, but I am thinking all twelve suggestions apply to good parenting.  Our busy lives can get in the way of celebrating the moment or enjoying a long walk.  My dog has trained me well with the importance of routine and the highlight of his day is when we hit the trail.  I think I’ll leave it to his species to sticking their nose into somebody else’s crap.  There are endless studies of the benefits of sleep, healthy snacks and getting out there and moving around.  Fresh air, a soft summer breeze, a trek in the rain or snow can be glorious.  When my daughters were teenagers, I waited up for them when they were out at night.  Maybe a few times, they had wished I wouldn’t have greeted them.  As a dad, it was a sign that I actually cared about them.  It is always gratifying to be eagerly greeted by your puppy at the door when you return home. They provide unconditional love and it is good for the soul.
I cried when my yellow lab fell asleep on my chest one night and never woke up.  My tears were plentiful when my dad passed away.  I still observe those sad anniversaries when the calendar rolls around and I still weep for my loss.  On the eve of another Father’s Day, I urge anyone who is lucky enough to still have one, or a father figure of some kind, to show them you love them.  Maybe I just have a dog’s heart.  Words of wisdom by musician, Garnet Rogers:

If you love someone, let it show
Hold them close to you
And tell them so they know
It’s too late by the grave
Give them all the love
You have everyday

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