In celebration of Valentine’s Day, I asked readers to write a love letter to their DINOS and picked a winning essay. Throughout February, I’ll be sharing all of the entries.
Here’s what Judy wrote:
My dog is a DINOS.
That fact is something that I have come to not so much love, but respect. I mean, he respects my limitations, fears and quirks, why should I not do the same?
I don’t want to focus on what Elmo can’t do or can’t handle. For a long time, my life revolved around shielding him from the big bad world. What I do want to tell you about is not the DINOS part of Elmo, but the REAL Elmo.
Almost immediately we noticed that Elmo is an “empath”. He taught us to listen to his intuit before our own gut feelings. He will get a look. The Look. It says “you.need.to.listen.to.me.now”. AND WE DO.
Mickey is Elmo’s younger fur-brother and he joined us 8 months after Elmo did. Always a little more rambunctious, Mickey found himself getting into pickles more often than not.
Elmo sitting guard over his younger brother, Mickey.
I’m getting ready for work in the morning. Elmo comes flying down the stairs. Nudges me, pokes me with his snout. Makes me look into his face. Something is wrong. “Show me”, I say, and Elmo flies back up the stairs, with me right behind him. There, laying on our bedroom floor, is Mickey, choking on a piece of a nylabone. “THANK YOU” I tell him, hugging him close.
My dog is a DINOS.
I enrolled Elmo into therapy dog classes and we passed with flying colors! We were assigned to the dementia ward at a long term care facility. Now I have to admit that I was scared. I have no experience with those suffering from forms of dementia and my own lack of knowledge and my apprehension made me wonder if this was going to be a good fit.
Our very first visit. Residents were gathered in a sitting room. Elmo showed off his tricks and politely went from person to person for pets and loving. Parked off to the side and not part of the group was an elderly woman who was very obviously in the later stages of her disease. Tied with terry cloth restraints to her wheelchair; in her hands were soft “gripper” pads to help prevent further atrophy of her fingers. She stared off to the ceiling, her mouth hanging open. Elmo and I approached. “Hello”, I said softly. “I’m Judy, and this is my dog, Elmo”. No reaction, not so much as a blink. I turned around and asked the other residents and aides present if anybody knew her name. I wanted to address her with her name.
“Don’t bother with her, she won’t respond to anything” was the answer I was given. That hurt me.
I turned back to the woman in the wheelchair. Elmo was laying on the floor at her feet, resting his head gently on the tops of her shoes. I looked at the woman’s face and SHE WAS SMILING. I knew we were where we belonged. Every week we went in search of Rose.
My dog is a DINOS.
One of our most favorite activities is to walk the wooded trails at the local dog park when its not too muddy. One afternoon, we met an older couple walking their PWD. Three big black dogs all gleefully bounding side to side into the woods back and forth as we walked the trails and chatted. Three black blurs going by over and over. All of a sudden the woman wasn’t next to me. We were chatting and then she wasn’t next to me. She had fallen. Her husband and I go to her and she says she cannot get up. In the meantime there are three black furry blurs still gleefully going back and forth.
And then Elmo stopped. Panting, he came back to us, stood for a moment taking in the scene. And then, to all of our amazements, he got down on his tummy and crawled up to the woman laying on the ground. Crawled. He crawled up to her and laid in front of her spoon fashion. And didn’t move.
I called for a rescue squad. When the EMTs arrived, Elmo was still laying there, letting her pet him for comfort while she waited. It was only after I called Elmo to my side that he got up. Once the EMTs were tending to the woman, he went back to the task at hand – gleefully running the trails.
My dog is a DINOS.
We have a boat. Not a fancy boat, but is had a motor and it works just fine. My husband is proud of his boat, and takes good care of it. So it’s not uncommon for him to be with his boat in the driveway, puttering at something.
And that’s where he was one summer evening, puttering in his boat in the driveway. I was in the house, doing “housely” type chores. All of a sudden Elmo starts to scream. Elmo’s “for real” bark is a scream. He doesn’t usually bark unless its necessary. And Elmo is screaming.
Looking out the window into the driveway. The boat is between and behind my husband’s big SUV. I see nothing. “Elmo, nothing’s there, honey”. And I walk away. Elmo continues to scream.
I looked three or four times thinking there was a stray dog in the yard or driveway. Nothing. Finally I’m getting frustrated. “Elmo STOP”. Well, okay, I said shut up. I didn’t listen.
About 10 minutes later my husband comes lumbering into the house, looking like he’s been in a war. “Didn’t you hear Elmo trying to tell you???? Didn’t you hear him barking???” He had tried to lower his heavy tool box out of the boat, lost his footing, and did a head first tumble onto the driveway. Because of the position of the car, I didn’t see him out there.
“Well, yes”, I said… “I heard him just fine, and I told him to shut up”. I felt terrible. Listen, Judy. Listen to this dog!!!
So my dog is a DINOS. But he’s so very, very much more!
I love you Elmo.