Your Best Dog Life - The Short Version
Hi! I’m Dan.
I spend 13 out of every 16 waking hours thinking about the best dog stuff: the crash test ratings of kennels in the back of a truck bed, the best way to teach fetch, or whether raw food diets are worth it even though my vet says to just feed my German Shepherd kibble.
I pursue such madness because I believe a great relationship with your dog adds so much to your life. So, I do everything I can to squeeze all the goodness I can from the time my dog and I have together.
I also want you and your dog to live your best lives together. To do that, you’ll need help with dog-related products and training methods. My dog and I research and test all kinds of stuff to bring you an unbiased, unfiltered set of options you’ll find here on this blog.
Your Best Dog Life - The Longer Version
Am I a dog lover? Sure.
But not the way most people think of them. I am decidedly un-hippy, and I’ve never uttered the words ‘fur baby’ in my life. I don’t put my dog in outfits (unless I’m super wasted,) and I’m confident I won’t ever own a stroller for my dog.
What I really am is a guy who believes that a relationship with your dog is one of life’s great gifts. It isn’t like a relationship with a person and definitely not like a cat or a parakeet. It’s special. And it’s worth investing in.
I’ve had several dogs. The first, which my uncle gave me when I was seven, was one of the greats. He was a miniature dachshund named ‘Rusty.’ He had the body of a shrunk-down Ant Man and a spirit the size of the Incredible Hulk.
Rusty jumped between an aggressive neighbor dog and me and gave his little life to spare me scars. Because of Rusty, I haven’t ever been long without a dog at my side.
These days I have my German Shepherd buddy, Waylon. He’s my co-worker, research partner, and my constant shadow – to the degree that I now rarely visit the bathroom alone. His are the pictures you see the most on this blog.
Before Waylon, there was Jenny, Daisy, Duke, Cody, and most recently Norman. Every one of them taught me something – but like Rusty, Norman was one of the all-time greats.
It was Norman (or Nor’an as our daughter coined him when she was one-and-a-half) who taught me the value of a relationship with your dog. It’s because of him that you’re reading this right now.
Norman was a rescue from the Human Society. He was some kind of black-and-tan coonhound mystery. He had floppy jowls and floppier ears. Norman wore a kind face for everyone but bicyclists, landscapers, and anyone pushing a stroller. (Yeah. Embarrassing.)
Norman was with our family for 11 years until bone cancer. We had him euthanized at home, where our family crowded around his bed and sobbed our goodbyes. He left this world with his head in my lap and all our love in his heart.
After Norman passed, I was surprised by my grief. I could be dramatic about it. The writer in me would like to say something about my sorrow being like a dark ocean, and I a desperate man with no boat to navigate its inky despair.
But that would be weird, so…
I’ll just say that it really really sucked. In fact, it sucked so much, and for so long, it aroused my curiosity.
What was going on that made me mourn my dog with more grief than I’d mourned many people? After all, he’s ‘just a dog,’ right?
Something else about me: I obsess. I do this to the degree that when my daughter was only nine, she announced she’d seen the perfect t-shirt for me at the mall. It read, “Hang on while I over-analyze this.”
I once realized I’d spent 10 minutes over analyzing if my over-analysis was a problem.
So, I turned my super-charged prefrontal cortex to figuring out what was going on in my heart. I read dozens of books about dogs and grief. After many hours of reflection, this is what I came up with…
We build bonds with non-human lives similarly to the way we do with people. Those bonds are as strong as the investment we put into them. And I invested a lot into my relationship with Norman.
Norman and I had many heart-felt (albeit oneway) talks and untold miles of wandering together. He was an anchor in my life (which makes my ‘sea-of-grief’ analogy above even better.) He was an emotional support, a constant companion, and brought more laughter into my life than a hundred Big Bang Theories ever could.
We had a relationship that was unlike one I’d have with someone of my species. Not better or worse, but special. I got so much out of it – and so did he. He’d probably have said the best was the chicken.)
After Norman passed, I wanted to give it some time before I brought home my next dog – I had to wait for when my heart could take it. Despite the wait, I knew the right time would come for a new dog-friend. So even as I grieved for Norman, I started preparing.
More than a year before I picked up Waylon, I began to research the best things I could do to train and care for him. I was astounded by all the things I didn’t know. When it came to dog training, I was as ignorant as Mother Theresa at a cage fight.
I set about correcting my ignorance. I’ve since attended classes, built a library of dog-books, consulted behaviorists, veterinarians and trainers, and though I don’t know everything at least now I know what I don’t know.
I had the best of intentions with Norman, but I missed out on a lot of things that would have made life better for both of us. I’m not trying to go all Eeyore here – Norman and I had a great life together – but did we live our best lives together?
I want to be sure that Waylon and I will.
I’d like you to come with me for this ride. So, I’ve started this humble blog. If I’ve overanalyzed it, I’m going to show you what I’ve found and tell you if I’ve reached a conclusion. I hope it helps you and your dog can live your best lives together.