Celebrating hug-your-furry-family-members day

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, April 11, 2012 8:16 PM

The hug is that most human of responses, one we use in both joy and sorrow. We reach out our arms to say hello to a friend we haven’t seen for months, or just since last week. We reach to comfort. We hug our family close, our children closer. We give a perfunctory hug to colleagues. Sometimes we pretend to be so happy to see them we also throw in a little pretend air kiss. But perfunctory hugs are different than other hugs. The arm motion is wrong. The hugger sort of loops his or her forearms through the huggee’s to apply just the smallest amount of pressure to the huggee’s back. A hug given to someone you know and are happy to see is a full-blown expression of love, a big wrap of the arms accompanied by a squeeze.

This is also the kind of hug most people give to their creature-comforts. You know, those of the four-legged and furry variety. Hugging a dog or a cat, or gently giving a squeeze to a puppy or kitten is one of the great joys of being a person, in this writer’s humble opinion. It’s one of the things I miss most about Maguire. I miss so many things of course, but not being able to sit on the floor and put my arms around him is what made National Hug Your Dog day so heartbreaking.

Yes, I’m a day late on celebrating this wondrous day, a day when it’s OK to hug your pup, as if it wasn’t OK any other day. That wondrous day when you shouldn’t wear black because you’re going to be wearing your animal’s fur after engaging in that hug and the person behind you in line at Starbucks will smile knowingly and ask: “How many pets do you have?”

April 10th was National Hug Your Dog day, per Beneful dog food, but according to a survey of U.S. dog owners, 68 percent of respondents actually hug their dogs more than they hug their people. Thirty percent admitted that they hug their dogs more than any of their other family members and 26 percent said that they hug their dogs more than they hug their best friends. Except that dog is often referred to as man’s best friend, so I think that statistic is a bit suspect.

The most cuddly breeds of dogs are evidently cocker spaniels. They require a great deal of human interaction. Retrievers, specifically of the Labrador variety, are also extremely loyal and loving. Beagles, gentle, sweet, sociable creatures that they are, are also highly affectionate. A Bichon Frise is happy to be hugged and hugged often, as is a boxer who gets five out of five paws for affection by WebVet.

My personal feeling is that it doesn’t matter what the breed – Maguire was, after all, a mutt, an adorable concoction of golden retriever/Australian shepherd and maybe some Akita and perhaps a bit of Chow Chow – they’re all infinitely huggable and fabulous.

And if you have a cat, that hardly matters because cats are dogs, too, just more aloof versions. As the saying goes: dogs have owners; cats have staff. But you can have wonderful relationships with people who work for you. Cats love their people and cat people love their cats as much as dog people love their dogs. I had a cat before we got Maguire. I lost her to cancer but I loved that beautiful little girl; I was devastated when she died and I couldn’t hug her anymore. She actually liked to be hugged, to an extent. When I would get home at night, to my townhouse, I would stand in the entrance way and wait for it. Sure enough, after about 30 seconds or so, I’d hear the soft thud as she jumped down from her sleeping position on the corner of my bed. Soon, she’d come slinking down the stairs, meowing the whole way, and then do that great little cat strut over to me, rub against my leg while stiffening her tail. I’d pick her up and she’d put her front paws around my neck, one on either side, and bury her gray and peach-colored fur head under my hair as she purred. She hugged.

Roy and Maguire

Maguire hugged too, by putting his head under my chin and pushing up against me. He was a hugger from the moment we got him, all 10 pounds of stinky fur, burrowing up against my chest and pushing his head up under my neck. As he got older, he did the same thing, though usually when he was sitting and I was sitting next to him. He hugged. I miss those hugs.

Today, I’m celebrating hug-your-furry-family-members day. I celebrate dogs and cats every day, and I celebrate the memory of hugging my boy. I still think he’s here with me sometimes, laying his head against me, hugging me back in the only way he knows how. It gives me a bit of creature-comfort just thinking about it, thinking about him, hugging him still if only in my dreams.

Dog twins

by Lorin Michel Sunday, June 5, 2011 10:24 PM

I’m a big dog lover as anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows. I find canines to be the purest of creatures, with focused hearts and minds that track cookies and other dogs with unwavering purpose. I think that dogs should be family members and treated with love and respect (for you cat lovers, I think the same; I just don’t happen to have a cat at the moment, largely because of my husband. Subject for another post). I think dogs are the good children who never grow up to ask for money, stay out past curfew, or demand a new computer or another car.

Dogs, in short, rule, with my Maguire leading the pack.

In addition to loving dogs, I also do some writing for a dog rescue organization up in Washington called Second Chance Dogs. I’ve written many stories about abused, abandoned and neglected dogs; dogs that people treat like something less than garbage. Starving them, refusing to get medical treatment when required, beating them. It breaks my heart but I write the stories because it helps to bring attention to their plights and helps to get good people to adopt them. In the case of Second Chance Dogs, to give them a second chance at a good life, with a loving family, something they all deserve. Once the new website is up – which we’re working on – I’ll talk more about this inspirational organization and what they accomplish on a daily basis.

Puppy, a Second Chance Dogs rescue, and Maguire's twin

But tonight, I’m going to write about one dog that they’ve recently rescued, a nearly starved little guy they’re currently calling Puppy. Hopefully he’ll get a better name soon, something a bit more majestic and deserving. When they sent me a photo, I literally gasped. I was in my office, in the loft, and I had to stand up and go to the stairs to make sure my own dog was still splayed out on the rug in the great room.

Puppy could be Maguire’s double, his twin, his brother. He looks so much like Maguire, both when he was younger and blonder and now that he’s grayer and wiser. I’d think they were separated at birth if it wasn’t for the fact that Maguire is older.

Maguire when he was younger, blonder

Puppy was so starved when he was rescued that he couldn’t eat. He was hand fed and given water with a bottle. Now he’s more or less able to eat on his own, scarfing down kibble, eggs, beef and cottage cheese. He’s filling out, he’s happy and he’s getting better with age. Just like his dog-twin, Maguire.

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