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.

More in Neighbors

People gather for “Our Cultural Landscape,” Sealaska Heritage Institute’s culturally responsive education conference. (Sealaska Heritage Institute photo)
Neighbors briefs

SHI to offer pre-conferences on Native literature, artful teaching Sealaska Heritage Institute… Continue reading

Neighbors: Letters of thanks

Thanks to Juneau Community Foundation and CBJ for supporting elders On behalf… Continue reading

(Photo by Maxim Gibson)
Living and Growing: The silence of God and the language of creation

“There is one God who revealed Himself through Jesus Christ His Son,… Continue reading

Gene Tagaban, a Juneau resident, ends his story and joins with the Raven spirit for one final dance during the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C., between June 26 and July 1. (Photo by Maria James)
Neighbors: Tlingit storyteller Gene Tagaban participates in Smithsonian Folklife Festival

The Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., hosted its Smithsonian Folklife Festival, with… Continue reading

Participants in a junior naturalist program hosted by Jensen-Olson Arboretum walk along a beach. (City and Borough of Juneau photo)
Neighbors briefs

Registration for arboretum junior naturalist program opens July 8 Friends of the… Continue reading

Sockeye salmon in a red chile sauce, ready to serve. (Photo by Patty Schied)
Cooking for Pleasure: Sockeye salmon in a red chile sauce

Every summer I look forward to finding fresh sockeye salmon for sale… Continue reading

Neighbors: Letters of thanks

Thanks for Challenge Grant to help arboretum project The Friends of the… Continue reading

Tari Stage-Harvey is the pastor of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. (Photo courtesy of Tari Stage-Harvey)
Living and Growing: Mixtape for the nation

The world would be a little more beautiful if we still shared… Continue reading

Page Bridges of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Juneau. (Photo courtesy of Page Bridges)
Living and Growing: Not a single bug

I just read a great shocking and informative article about our treatment… Continue reading

(Photo by Pixabay under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication license)
Gimme A Smile: What’s in your pockets?

You might have seen a recurring conversation online. It goes like this:… Continue reading

Battered fish fillets frying. (Photo by Patty Schied)
Cooking for Pleasure: Fish and chips with homemade tartar sauce

For years I struggled with different fish batter recipes, usually with lousy… Continue reading