I love the dog. Pippin owns me. I come when he calls, feed him whatever he wants, walk him without his leash, and give belly rubs on command. How the dog came to be the love of my life is a mystery to me. But it’s true none-the-less. I love the dog.

Dogs often get a bad rap in cultural idioms, such as the deterioration of something “going to the dogs,” the ruthlessness of a “dog-eat-dog” world, and the hopelessness of “a dog’s chance.” People putting on airs are said to be “putting on the dog.” Those shirking responsibility are often accused of “dogging it.” And you wouldn’t want to disturb a dog when he’s napping; better to let “sleeping dogs lie.” On the other hand, I’m happy to report, “every dog has his day.”

The popularization of the term, “Man’s Best Friend” is said to have occurred in a courtroom speech by George Graham Vest in Warrensburg, Missouri in 1870, who said, “The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog.”

Dogs have best friends of their own. Winslow is Pippin’s BFF. They look alike, play alike, and sleep on each other’s faces.  But they are vastly different. Winslow is a field dog. Pip is of the lazy, coddled, show-dog variety. Winslow leaps car seats in a single bound. Pip needs a boost into the Jeep. Winslow plops on the couch. Pippin circles thrice and carefully positions himself amidst the blankets. Winslow whines; Pip looks at you meaningfully through thickly lined eyelashes. Winslow begs; Pip appropriates. Yet, at day’s end, they remain singular in purpose, nature, and sincerity. You can tell by the dog slobber crusted on their ears.

In 1975, Al Pacino starred in a crime movie called “Dog Day Afternoon.” But what is a Dog Day Afternoon? In Ancient Rome, dog days occurred when the Dog Star, Sirius, rose just before sunrise. The Romans believed that the hot, sticky days of late summer were caused by the Dog Star, and thought that dogs went mad during this time – also that wine spoiled, seas boiled, and people became hysterical. As these things happen, the precession of stars has changed since those days. Sirius is no longer seen in the same position from Rome, but the expression has stuck. So a dog day afternoon is still known as one of one of the very hot, sticky days at the end of summer.

Yes, dogs might get a bad rap, take the blame for eating homework, or waste their days lying around the yard. The Dog Star may even change its position in the Heavens, but some things never change. I love my dog. And anyone who thinks I should ratchet that down a bit is barking up the wrong tree.

Kyla Merwin