by Barry KuKes
About three months ago, I re-united with a very dear friend. He and I were best friends throughout our adolescent years and into our early twenties but drifted apart once our careers started to take shape. He moved to Iowa and practiced medicine for over thirty years, raised a family of five children, and now has 13 grandchildren as well. He reached out to me on Facebook as have a few more people as of late. Must be something in the air. I accepted his friend request and we have been communicating by phone and a weekly Zoom meeting to see each other face to face ever since.
Having lost his wife to a stroke a couple of years ago, he is now retired and lives alone in the same 5-bedroom house that he has called home for over 30 years. Thankfully, all his children and grandchildren are within a forty-minute drive but that doesn’t ease the pain of being alone day in and day out. To help him out, I suggested he get a pet. He was very much against the idea for he has had his share of major illness and was not comfortable taking on the responsibility of an animal. He had a dog when we were kids and he said they had many pets through the years, but his kids and wife were the primary caregivers for the animals, not him. I persisted making a case that a pet would give his life some purpose. He had shared that his volunteering for his local church and a prison about 40-miles down the road, had been halted as a result of the pandemic. He needed something to keep himself busy and to feel useful again.
As weeks passed, I kept suggesting pets. I started with a dog and quickly worked my way down to a hamster. He had no interest. Then it happened. God intervened one early evening. My friend heard a scratch at his back door. He ignored the noise at first, but the scratching persisted. He got out of his overstuffed recliner and walked to the back door. As he opened the door, he heard the thump of a tail hitting the nearby wooden porch railing. There stood a medium size dog that had seen better days. He asked the dog, “well, what do you want?” The dog came closer and placed his head against my friends’ leg and let out a sigh.
“Okay then, you look hungry. Come join me for dinner,” he said, and the dog entered the kitchen.
That was about 2 months ago. My friend now has a new best friend he named Reggie that turned out to be a German Shepherd mix about 9-years old. My friend took Reggie to the local veterinarian and was pleased to find out the dog although malnourished, was healthy otherwise.
Now Reggie and my friend go everywhere together, which is quite a change because before Reggie, my friend didn’t leave his house. Once again, he has a purpose. Once again, he has something to care about and that something, in this case Reggie, cares about my friend just as much or more in return. A pet makes you get out of bed in the morning. They need your attention, so you can’t just ignore them. They depend on you for food, care, and protection. If you don’t feel you can handle a pet right now, that’s your decision but having a set of eyes to look back at you when you speak is far more rewarding than talking to four walls. Birds, goldfish, cats, hamsters, and of course dogs can fill your life with joy and happiness but more importantly they can keep you company when no one else is there.
Remember, adopt don’t shop.
Barry KuKes is the Community Outreach Director for the Halifax Humane Society. You can reach Barry at 386.274.4703, ext. 320, or BarryK@halifaxhumanesociety.org