I Believe In My Dog

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As heard on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday, September 16, 2007.

In his This I Believe essay, David Buetow tells how becoming a dog owner improved his life — and his beliefs.
I believe in my dog. I believe in the way he lives his life, and I try to emulate him. I strive to gain his level of happiness in the simplest of things. Like the way he approaches each meal with endless appreciation and even joy. While I struggle to decide what to eat from full cupboards and lament what I don’t have, he circles the floor, excitedly anticipating the very same meal, in the very same portion, at the very same time every day. I believe in how he lives in the present. As my day fills with stress, crowded commutes and endless deadlines, I think of Duncan home alone. His day was probably boring, but he’s ready to move right past it once we’re together. I believe in his egalitarian treatment of everyone despite race, creed or appearance. He never pre-judges. Before I had him, I considered myself “street smart,” avoiding eye contact with people I didn’t know or didn’t think I wanted to know. Running through Chicago neighborhoods with Duncan has changed all that. Now when people smile at us, I smile back, and if Duncan stops to say hello I stop and greet them, too. I never had a dog before; I got Duncan at the urging of a friend who had probably grown as tired of my bachelor behavior as I had. My long work nights and weekends always ended with a lonely run, a bourbon or two, or a phone call to someone I didn’t really listen to. All I talked about was me and what was wrong with my life. My friends stopped asking me out because I was always either at work or talking about work. I had dates with women who would mistakenly think I was loyal to them but I never returned their calls or thanked them for the cookies they left on my doorstep. I was what some people would call “a dog” – a bad dog. Not one person depended on me, nor I upon them. One Sunday I woke up at noon, and I suddenly noticed how silent my house and my life was. I realized I couldn’t expect any valued relationship until I created one first. So I got Duncan. All of a sudden, where no one depended on me, he did. It was extreme detox from selfishness: Let me out. Feed me. Clean up after me. Watch me sleep. I found that I actually liked being relied upon. When I realized that I could meet his needs, I also realized he met mine. I believe in the nobility of Duncan’s loyalty, and his enthusiasm. Every time I come in the door, he’s waiting to greet me with glee. Now, when my girlfriend comes over, I get up and run to the door to greet her like I learned to do from my dog.

Before he met his chocolate Labrador, Duncan, trial attorney David Buetow was a lifelong bachelor. He now resides with his fiancée and Duncan on Chicago’s north side, where he and Duncan run frequently, and all three spend many evenings together at home.

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