What is a dog's purpose?
What exactly is a dog’s purpose? Is there even such a thing? Or is this just a man-made construct we’ve come up with to justify the domestication, adoration, and companionship of this once wild species. If I’m being honest, I don’t know. I think it’s selfish to assume that their purpose has anything to do with man - but I know what I’ve seen over the years, and what I observed over the last week. And I’d like to share that with you.
Last Thursday night, we received a call informing us that Dana’s beloved Nana had passed away at almost 97 years old.
That’s a damn good run.
Jean Bahret, or Nana as everyone called her, was the very embodiment of love...of family. She was the matriarch of a very large, very tight-knit group that I’ve had the great blessing of being part of since 2012. When we arrived at the funeral home, I couldn’t help but have a small moment when I saw the bouquet of dog flowers surrounded by pictures of Dexter and Holly. The photograph of Dexter captured their very first kiss, and Nana’s priceless reaction (pictured below).
We had just adopted Dexter a few days prior, and were still learning about him, and him about us. At that time he was timid, and would sometimes growl at certain people. Not in a threatening way, but in his own soft way, as if to say “this is a lot for me right now, I’d really appreciate it if you’d give me some room”. Dana and I were very nervous about him meeting Nana, as he was still learning his manners and would often jump up on people. We didn’t want him to accidentally hurt her! (Side note, he did one time. He jumped up, and his nails broke her skin. Dana’s Nana gave her crap for it too, just to bust her chops because she knew Dana would feel bad. That was Nana!) When we got there, Nana was sitting out on her back steps. It was a beautiful day, the kind of day where she enjoyed taking in a little sun and some fresh air. I kept the leash short and let him sniff her. He knew immediately what kind of person he was sniffing, and moments later it was time for kisses. It was quite the moment. “The good stuff”, as Dana’s Uncle and I would call it as we spent time talking together at the funeral home. A single photograph caused the memories of that day to flood back to my mind, and I knew I wanted to write about it. And that led me to thinking, just what is a dog’s purpose?
The other picture that surrounded the bouquet of dog flowers was none other than Holly. She works part time at Dexter’s Dog Boutique, and can be found on our family dog wall at the shop. She is a beautiful Yorkie who can put a smile on anybody’s face. She’s a big sissy though, ask anyone. For the last several years, we noticed that Holly loved visiting Nana’s house. She’d pull her lead up the steps into the house, and once off leash she’d run into the back porch as fast as she could, and jump up onto Nana’s bed. They loved spending time together. We’d hear from different family members all the time about how she was always asking for Holly or Dexter. But it was Holly who became her unofficial therapy dog.
A few months ago, Holly’s mom (Christina, Dana’s sister) brought Holly into the shop for a session with Karen McCormack, a brilliant animal communicator in the Hudson Valley. Dana and I had personally met with Karen twice, and were blown away - so we encouraged Christina to give it a try.
We were all surprised by what we heard.
Karen knew that Holly had frequently been visiting an elderly family member, and told Christina that Holly took her role very seriously. Visiting Nana was HER job, and she knew she needed to go there to pick her up, and help make her smile. Holly never disappointed.
So what is a dog’s purpose? I think there’s only one word that can come close to capturing the amazing spirit and selflessness of Holly. Of Dexter. Of the dog laying next to you as you read this, the dog from your childhood, or the dog that takes up 2/3’s of your camera roll (and probably 2/3’s of your bed);
Two days after Nana passed, the family gathered at the house. When Holly got there, it was business as usual. She ran into the porch where Nana could usually be found, and stopped to look. She circled back through the living room into the kitchen, where Nana would sit to eat, have tea, or play scrabble (always refusing to play bad or dirty words, she had her reputation to uphold). Holly sniffed around in the kitchen, and then looked up at Dana’s mother and Aunt Jean.
She trotted back into the porch, and jumped up onto the bed. She circled around a couple times, and laid down right where Nana’s head would have been.