I think if I've learned anything about friendship, it's to hang in, stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for you. Don't walk away, don't be distracted, don't be too busy or tired, don't take them for granted. Friends are part of the glue that holds life and faith together. Powerful stuff.
We are human, and we suffer, and unlike the animals on the farm, we are self-aware, and we know that we suffer, and it doesn't hurt more or less if God caused it or could stop it, at least for me. I am definitely of the school that believes God has bigger stuff to worry about than me.
It is difficult to see ourselves as we are. Sometimes we are fortunate enough to have good friends, lovers or others who will do us the good service of telling us the truth about ourselves. When we don't, we can so easily delude ourselves, lose a sense of truth about ourselves, and our conscience loses power and purpose. Mostly, we tell ourselves what we would like to hear. We lose our way.
Goats are the cable talk show panelists of the animal world, ready at a moment's notice to interject, interrupt, and opine. They have something to say about everything, little of it complimentary. They are the most impertinent animals I have ever known.
When I wrote about media and technology, I had a lot of lonely, even intimate book talks. Since writing about dogs, I have a lot of company at book signings.
Owners who buy aggressive dogs for security may be kidding themselves: The chances that the victim of a fatal dog attack will be a burglar or human attacker are 1-in-177. The odds that the victim will be a child are 7-in-10.
My beloved dog defied treatment from the best and most expensive veterinarians, holistic practitioners, trainers, and animal communicators. He was simply beyond my ability to repair or control.
My goats are not contemplative, accepting, or introspective. They are the Greek chorus of my farm, sometimes of my life. They watch me closely and remind me that I am foolish.
Dogs and other animals - goats, donkeys, cows, a grumpy rooster - continue to change my writing life.
Most Americans acquire dogs impulsively and for dubious reasons: as a Christmas gift for the kids. Because they saw one in a movie. To match the new living-room furniture. Because they moved to the suburbs and see a dog as part of the package.
The Perfect Dog is an enticing fantasy pooch. It's the dog that instantly learns to pee outdoors, never menaces or frightens children, plays gently with other dogs, won't jump on the UPS guy, never rolls in gross things, eats only the appropriate food at the right time, and never chews anything not meant for him. This dog does not exist.
Bites are usually not random attacks by strays. The great majority of biting dogs belong to a family member or friend of the victim. When a young child is the victim, the attack almost always occurs in the family home, and the perpetrator is usually a 'good' dog that had not previously behaved in a menacing way.
Animals have come to mean so much in our lives. We live in a fragmented and disconnected culture. Politics are ugly, religion is struggling, technology is stressful, and the economy is unfortunate. What's one thing that we have in our lives that we can depend on? A dog or a cat loving us unconditionally, every day, very faithfully.
When people buy, rescue, or otherwise acquire a dog from unscrupulous breeders or amateur rescue groups, they are making a decision with ethical consequences. They have a profound responsibility to consider their actions; to gauge the dog's behavior, to train it thoroughly and rigorously, to protect other humans and dogs from harm.
I'm always happy when people choose to get another dog because it's a healthy and healing thing to do, and there are millions of them needing homes. But there is no single time frame to do it in because grieving is an intensely personal experience.
It's important to remember that the animals are not grieving with us. They're very accepting. They're not lying there thinking 'How could you do this to me? Why aren't you keeping me going?' Pets don't do the human things of guilt and anger and recrimination that we do. They come and go with great acceptance.
There is no evidence that dogs have the kind of complex emotional lives and value systems that we do. It's one reason why we love them so much, in fact. They are neither "good" nor "bad." They don't hold grudges, act in petty ways, or seek revenge. They read our moods, but not our minds.
A border collie named Orson inspired me to buy a 110-acre farm with four barns and a sheep. That led to a series of books about Bedlam Farm and about dogs, rural life, lambing and herding sheep.
It's natural canine behavior to chew on all sorts of things, roll in other animals' droppings, hump and fight other dogs, menace anything that invades the home. All these behaviors can be curbed, but that takes a lot of work. Trainers say it requires nearly 2,000 repetitions of a behavior for a dog to completely absorb it.
It is possible to take something beautiful and lasting out of the heart-wrenching experience of seeing the animal you love move inexorably toward death.