Most dog owners will tell you that, unequivocally, they are the proud owners of the “best dog in the world.” I know that this is false, because my Grandmother said so. In her declining health, I distinctly recall her including my dog as she systematically named all of the members of our family, deeming them “the best in the world.” However, it was not this inclusion as a member of the family that made Lightning so special.
Lightning was a mutt, although when people asked I proudly announced that he was part Corgi, part Daschund. In reality these were merely the two most pronounced breeds out of dozens in his lineage. Lightning had short blonde fur, shimmering white paws, and a long, bold, snout. Dogs with long snouts tend to pant quite a bit. And when they pant, their snout hinges open, giving the impression that they are smiling.
Lightning was always smiling. He smiled when you came home. He smiled when you were feeling down. He smiled when you told him your problems, and he only required only a simple ear scratch in return.
Nothing Lightning did was low-key. He was a constant presence in our yard for 16 years. He barked often, howled occasionally, napped frequently, and smiled constantly.
It is fitting, then, that Lightning did not meet his final days like many other animals of his kind. He did not ail in private. His final moments did not come in seclusion, and he did not attempt to shelter himself in a corner as death approached. He faced it like he faced any other intruder – boldly, fiercely, and under the gaze of anyone willing to watch. I cannot name a single thing, except for his namesake, Lightning, that made him cower or shrink away.
But what I admired most about Lightning was his ability to turn his emotions on and off. For a creature so passionate and fierce, he spent the majority of his idle moments sleeping peacefully in his favorite spots. In the mornings, he eagerly climbed into the dewy grass to catch a nap in a sunbeam. In the afternoons, he found shady patches to relax, with his head on his paws. And in the dark of winter, he found solace by nestling into bundles of hay that occupied his cozy doghouse.
During one moment, Lightning would be angrily barking at a squirrel, or guarding his territory with a watchful eye. But during the next, he would be napping peacefully in the sunlight, without a care in the world. Out of all of his admirable qualities, I would gladly adopt this one as my own. His ability to turn off the stresses of the outside world and find peace in his own domain was stunning and magnificent.
Perhaps we could all learn a lot from Lightning, the best dog in the whole world.