Like most young children, Tom, my son, kept asking for a dog. Having mutts my whole life we decided to find our first pure bred English Bench Labrador Retriever because we live adjacent to a lilly pad pond.
Luke, a black male, was the offspring of the “Royal Canadian National Champion”. He was my side-kick training for marathons, hiking in the”Whites”, even in snowstorms he was by my side. Luke would sit in the bow of the canoe, balancing me off while paddling in the stern. He was the most amazing animal I ever had.
After 13 glorious years Ol’ Luke was suffering and his life, long friend knew what he had to do. I held my best friend in my arms, as they injected him and watched and felt the last breath of life leave his body. I was saddened, so very sad.
What should we do? Karen, my gracious wife, and I decided to take in another black lab male, Otis, related to Ol’ Luke. Otis was a totally different story. The breeder sold his Mother when he was just 4 weeks old and he was the only pup in the litter. There little Otis sat with no Mom and no siblings, alone in the world.
For proper development, a dog should never be taken from his Mom until 8 weeks. Not properly weaned and forced to “socialize” with other older litters in the breeding factory, he came to us at 8 weeks with many problems. Otis would lie on the floor and suck my thumb and he would nip. This was what he learned to compete with older dogs.
As they say, “all you need is love”. The poor dog sucked my thumb for more than a year. After 2 difficult years of working with Otis, came the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre in CT. I had to do something with this kind, loving animal to help and enrolled him in classes to become a therapy dog. Otis graduated on the Dean’s List and now this 3 year old is ready to help.
I have taken him to DYS, where kids have trouble just saying the word “love’. Just like Otis, most never received this essential need in their formative years. Our prisons are filled with forgotten, cast off, unwanted young people. They, like Otis, are in need of someone or something that cares and demonstrates this human requirement for happiness. People many times relate better to an animal. This is nothing new. Otis has his graduate degree in compassion, empathy and love. This remarkable animal does it so well because he understands.