When you grow up on a farm, you have an inborn love for animals. Whether it was the cows and chickens, hogs and geese, horse and pony, sheep, cat or dog, from the start of the day to the end of the day we were around those animals. To this day I still love the smell of the barn.
But it is one thing to have animals as part of your livelihood and another thing to have them as pets. Farmers have pets just like anyone else. And as I was growing up, my favorite pet was our collie dog named Lassie.
I didn’t realize at the time that there was an early version in 1859 of a British story by Elisabeth Gaskells titled “The Half Brothers,” which would become the precursor to the famous American Lassie nearly a hundred years later. Nor did I realize how famous that Lassie would become in radio, cartoons, books and so many places.
But I was aware of the Emmy-winning TV series for 19 years from 1954 to 1973 titled “Lassie.” That dog went on to be one of three animals to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and is the only animal on the list of 100 icons of the 20th Century.
Our Lassie was a favorite family pet. The day she was accidently run over by a truck, all of us felt like we had lost a member of our family. You will understand, then, how I identified with Pa. Sen. Andy and Margo Dinniman when they lost their beloved dog, Henry. For nine years, Henry brought joy to the Dinniman home, and even by Senator Dinniman’s admission, helped him in his work to join other colleagues across the aisle to shut down Pennsylvania gas chambers.
When Henry died, the Dinnimans received over 2,000 notes, cards and emails of sympathy. One of them was from me. I told him how important our little black cocker spaniel, Tiffany, was in our family when our children were growing up. We got her when she was so little that she couldn’t climb up and down steps. And we had her for 16 years.
Our family has so many stories about Tiffany that are part of our heritage. She loved to catch pieces of ice in her mouth as we tossed them to her. She loved running and jumping outside or just sitting on the couch next to us. I even expressed my appreciation to her in the introduction of my doctoral dissertation for the way she kept me company during my research.
Our family still talks about that day when we had to take her on that long, one-way trip to the vet’s office. How we wished we could have kept her longer. But the time had come to say goodbye. All of the Meyer family had lots and lots of tears.
All kinds of things are said about animals. Anatole France said, “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” Dwight D. Eisenhower spoke of the strength of an animal when he said, “What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
Andy Rooney made me smile when he said, “The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.” Even Billy Graham said, “A real Christian is a person who can give his pet parrot to the town gossip.”
And, finally, Ann Landers cautioned, “Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.”
Our inclination to love animals is deeply imbedded in the human condition. And just about everyone you talk to has at least one story where an animal has made a huge impact on their life.
Think about it.Dr. Don Meyer is President of the University of Valley Forge, Phoenixville, PA Responses can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org Official page: Facebook.com/DrDonMeyer Follow on Twitter: @DrDonMeyer Archives at: valleyforge.edu/thinkaboutit