I’ve been mulling over what I wanted to say today. Memorial Day marks the beginning of Summer for most people in the United States, but that’s not its true purpose. It’s a day to remember those who served our country and are no longer with us. One of my favorite veterans, and the person most responsible for my own love of dogs is my dad, but fortunately, he is still among the living. One of my other favorite veterans is my maternal grandfather, who was a sailor during World War II. He passed away some time ago, and I miss him more than I can say. He’s another person who taught me a great love of dogs, and also about the power dogs can have to heal us.
My grandpa was a person who grew up not liking dogs. It wasn’t until he was close to retirement, when I was a little girl, that he became a dog person. He took it into his head at one point that he wanted to get a Shetland Sheepdog. They poured through the newspaper classified ads and found a local breeder who had one available. She told my grandfather that he was the runt of the litter, but that didn’t deter him. He was determined to go and meet that puppy. As it happened, I was there with them when they decided to go and see the puppy, so they took me along. Cavett rode home in my lap and quickly had my grandpa’s heart in his paws. Cavett was a smart little dog and once he was potty trained, he realized that my grandpa’s routine at night was to take his shoes and socks off in the living room and leave them there before going to bed. When Cavett wanted out, he drug first one sock to the bedroom, then the second, followed by two more trips with the shoes. This amused my grandfather to no end and I think he looked forward to that morning routine more than anything else.
My grandfather had a stroke about six months after they brought Cavett home. He spent a long time in the hospital and the biggest thing affected for him was his speech. He often sought the words to communicate what he wanted and felt a lot of frustration over it. He repeatedly asked about “the baby” and nobody knew what he was talking about. At the same time he was in the hospital, we were taking care of Cavett. Fortunately, I knew all of Cavett’s quirks that came from being very spoiled by my grandpa. He had to have his roast beef from the local grocery store deli, torn up into bite-sized pieces. He also had to have his daily ice cream sandwich. I knew this because Grandma and Grandpa’s house was on my way home from school and I stopped there every day. If there was only one ice cream sandwich left in the freezer, it was off limits because it was for Cavett later in the day, but if there was more than one, I was free to have one. Eventually, they decided to take Cavett over to have a visit with my Grandpa at the hospital. They didn’t tell him, and I remember waiting with Cavett on a bench until he walked out with my grandma. He sat down in the middle of the sidewalk to see his dog and they were both about the happiest I’ve ever seen them. Having Cavett around definitely helped with his recovery. He was more active than he would have been without the dog having needs that he had to attend to, and when he was with Cavett, the pressure to come up with all those words wasn’t there. Cavett wasn’t a service dog, but he probably could have been trained to be one in the right hands.
These days, we have people training some wonderful service dogs to help soldiers returning home deal with PTSD, which can be horribly debilitating, as well as dogs that help soldiers in other ways like with mobility issues in a variety of ways. If you’re looking to do something today to honor a veteran, donating to a service dog program is one excellent way to help and show your appreciation for what they’ve done for our country. There’s even a program that trains Greyhounds to help members of the armed services called Hounds & Heroes.
Of course, there are also canine veterans that we owe a debt of gratitude to. There are dogs that do a variety of important jobs in the armed forces that we should remember today. If you’d like to do something to honor them, you could donate a Fido Bag to someone with a dog working in the service. I can promise you that it would mean the world to someone serving our country if you did, and I know that they will embroider the name of the person or organization who donates it on the bag. There are also canine veterans that need homes after they retire, too. If you have room in your family for a dog, or know someone else who does, it’s an option that a lot of people don’t know about.
Today, we’re thanking everyone who has served and defended our country. So often, people forget that the gesture of saying “thank you” carries more weight than a grand gesture. Our lives are better thanks to their sacrifice and we never forget that. Thank you, veterans and servicemen and women for all you do for us!