Roger Wharton (Courtesy Photo)

Roger Wharton (Courtesy Photo)

Living Growing: First friend

Dogs are very common special friends of people in Southeast Alaska.

  • By Roger Wharton
  • Thursday, January 12, 2023 11:36am
  • Neighbors

Rudyard Kipling wrote in “The Jungle Book,” “When the Man wakes up he said, ‘What is Wild Dog doing here?’ And the Woman said, ‘His name is not Wild Dog anymore, but the First Friend, because he will be our friend for always and always and always.’”

“All knowledge, the totality of all questions and all answers is contained in the dog.” — Franz Kafka

Kurt Vonnegut in his short story “Tom Edison’s Shaggy Dog” implies that dogs are superior beings who found that endearing themselves to humans was the easiest way to survive.

Dogs are very common special friends of people in Southeast Alaska. Our canine friends keep us company at home, on the trail and in our boats, out hunting, and some work for us entertaining our children, keeping guard and even pulling sleds.

I share here a true-life account of one dog and what he taught his family by his death that I read but no longer can find the reference for.

A vet was called to the home of a family who had a very sick wolfhound named Belker, hoping for a miracle. Belker had cancer and the vet sadly informed them that there was nothing that could be done — no miracles.

Knowing how loved Belker was by the family, the vet offered to provide the euthanasia procedure in their home. The parents thought it would be a good idea for 6-year-old Shane to observe as they thought he might learn something from the experience.

The next day with his family surrounding him and Shane calming petting him, the old dog slipped away. The adults were wondering if Shane understood what was going on.

The little boy seems to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion. Everyone was sitting around wondering about the sad fact that dog’s lives are shorter than humans. Shane, who had been listening piped up saying, “I know why.”

The adults there were surprised at what came out of the Shane’s mouth. He said “People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life — like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right? Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay for as long as we do.”

Some of the secrets that dogs can teach us about being loving caring and compassionate people include:

When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.

Remember when a loved one comes home, always run to greet them.

Delight in the simple joy of a long walk with a friend — two or four-legged.

Be faithful.

Never pretend to be something you’re not.

Love generously.

Care deeply.

If a dog were your teacher, you would also learn these general life lessons:

Live simply.

Love generously.

Care deeply.

Speak kindly and be kind.

Take naps so you don’t get grumpy, and stretch before rising.

Run, romp and play daily.

When you are happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

Importantly, take good care of your dog and spend lots of time playing fetch. (Many adults actually don’t “play” much except with their dog.)

Remember dog spelled backwards is God

“Dogs are our link to paradise.” – Milan Kundera

I hope that this essay brought a smile to your face on this dark winter day and that, if you have a dog friend, you spend some extra time with him/her telling them about and demonstrating your love for them.

• The Rev. Roger Wharton having served the Episcopal Churches in Juneau is currently a hospice chaplain and EcoChaplain in Silicon Valley. His website is and emails are received at “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Friday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.

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