The world has gone canine crazy, animal crazy or maybe it’s just because of the mass media we have today that makes it more obvious. Want to get a lot of hits on your social media page? Post a photo of your dog.
As my mind ventures back I can recall several memorable dogs who brought much joy and delight to my life and the lives of many in my family.
In today’s world, I believe that people, even though they have access to touch of the button communication and so much instantaneous information have deeper needs, maybe more than ever before to something that will give them unconditional love and attention.
What is the old saying? “Man’s best friend.”
I believe we could take that to the level of the best friend of any gender. There have been scientific studies done about individuals who own pets and take care of them. These individuals seem to be less lonely and, in general, happier. There are responsibilities that go along with pet ownership that make an individual “get up and do.”
Now, on Sunday, Jan. 19, I was invited to emcee the annual Stephen Foster Day Program at the historic Foster Museum at the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park. It was a magnificent program, great vocal talents, wonderful instrumental performances, and a nice reception that followed, as well as an appreciative and wonderful audience. My appreciation to the staff of the park, especially Patsy Cromer for all her hard work, as well as the many dedicated volunteers who make events such as Stephen Foster Day possible. A lot of preparation goes into any event, I know, I’ve been there and one a lot of that kind of work.
As I walked and looked at the Dioramas in the museum, as I have looked at them scores of times in the past, I thought about dogs, and the role they have played in our American culture in general, and what made me think of it was the diorama depicting Foster’s composition: “Old Dog Tray,” published in 1854.
There it is in the diorama, an elderly gentleman sitting in an arm chair in a cozy room before the fire and, there at his feet, wagging his tail slowly is “Old Dog Tray,” and there in the fireplace, memories the man has of his dog. Now, we know dogs don’t live from one’s childhood till one’s adulthood. With large dogs, the average life span is a little more than 10 years, and with smaller dogs, a few more. The dog the older man in the diorama is petting is not “Old Dog Tray,” but looks a lot like him.
Part of the lyrics of the song, I think depict the American story and the American affection for dogs in general. Rather than sharing the whole song, we will concentrate on the chorus of Foster’s composition.
“Old dog Tray's every faithful Grief cannot drive him away He's gentle, he is kind I'll never, never find a better friend than old dog Tray.”
Stephen Foster as a composer certainly thought about so much with which those who appreciated his music could identify, “longing for home,” “remembered loves,” “rivers and steamboats,” “dancing and playing music” and “dogs.”
And the story of dogs as a part of American songs goes on and on in song lyrics:
“You ain’t nothing but a hound dog.”
“How much is that doggie in the window?”
Song titles by certain artist
“Seamus the Dog” by Pink Floyd
“Old King” by Neil Young and Dolly Parton’s “Cracker Jack”, and, of course, the ever popular “Old Shep,” a tear jerker for sure.
The first time my brother, Jerry Lawrence Bullard, performed on the Florida Folk Festival stage more than 50 years ago, the late Mrs. Virginia Daniel had him sing a song about a dog “Old Blue.”
“I had an old dog, and his name was blue,
And I’ll bet you five dollars,
He’s a good dog too.
Saying ‘Come on blue, you can have some too.’”
Well, as some folks in north central Florida often say “Let’s hem this hog in the ditch.”
America, and our area, is no exception has had a long love affair with dogs.
Bess Truman, wife of the late President Harry Truman is said to have stated that a leading politician of the day told her upon her husband’s unexpected ascendancy to the presidency, “Bess, if you are going to live in Washington, D.C., buy yourself a dog, that way you’ll know you have a friend.”
The quote is humorous, but there’s a lot of truth to it.
They stay with us through our emotional roller coasters in life, they make us happier just by seeing them and petting them, they thrill us with their bravery, and make us more appreciative with their loyalty.
There are several organizations in our area who do much for our canine friends, and my memory won’t list them all here, but to all those individuals who rescue dogs, take care of abandoned dogs and other pets, and who nurture them. God Bless you. I would say if a person is not capable of loving or liking a dog, they may do to watch.
I know when Laura Leigh was a child, and we would, once in a while, visit Walter and Merri McKenzie, as much as she loved them, she was always ready to visit with Merri’s little dog “Rarebit,” she couldn’t wait, and so are we all often that way with our canine friends. No matter what life has dealt us, they are waiting and there.
If you suffer from depression, loneliness, and it seems life has crowded in on you too much, my advice is go the animal shelter and give some dog a great life, and it will enrich yours too.
I hope you don’t think from this article, “Boy has his article gone to the dogs.” Just indulge me this week, I grew up just like a lot of you did watching “Lassie.”
From the Eight Mile Still on the Woodpecker Route north of White Springs, wishing you a day filled with joy, peace, and, above all, lots of love and laughter.