By Joe Rector

My daughter Lacey and her family had a scare not long ago. It made us all re-evaluate our feelings toward the people and things we love. Well, at least that’s the effect it had on me.

Madden was spending the weekend with his grandparents in Huntsville, Alabama, and Lacey and Nick were looking forward to a party, one for grown-ups at their house. She’d planned a huge spread of food and drink, and Nick had constructed a huge “slip and slide” running down the back of their yard.

Someway, somehow, the family dog Riley managed to escape through the front door, and in the blink of an eye, he was gone. Now, the pooch is a Caron Terrier, not one of God’s brightest creatures. Of course, when any living thing is in-bred so much over the years, it’s a miracle the breed has only four legs and paws, one head and one tail.

Panic set in as Riley’s human parents searched the surrounding yards and homes. They returned defeated and heartbroken when no sign of him was found. Ever-resourceful Lacey printed out “Lost Dog” posters complete with name, description, and contact information. Yep, she issued a doggie amber alert for the missing pet.

As things turned out, a woman driving down the road saw Riley. She stopped, opened the door, and the mutt jumped in, proving just how mentally challenged this dog is. When the rescuer opened her front door, Riley ran inside, jumped on the couch, and climbed to the top of the cushions where he took a nap. He was returned to Lacey, and she welcomed him with open arms, even though she swore to beat him senseless for scaring them all so much.

Dallas’ dog Baxter is an old man. He’s nearly crippled with arthritis and has just a bit of trouble with bladder control. He is a loving dog, but his near-deafness keeps him jumpy when folks approach. Dallas has talked with the vet about whether his amigo is in pain because he would make the difficult decision to have him put to sleep if it relieved any unrelenting hurt that might be worse than passing. Right now, my son is giving wonderful care to his best buddy, whom he rescued from an empty apartment seven years ago.

My dog Snoop, the Jack Russell with an almost psychotic personality, hasn’t been his normal, hateful self of late. Last week, he kept Amy and me up much of the night as he scratched the side of the mattress and begged to get in the bed. I took the old guy to Jim Butler, our vet, and he said the look in Snoop’s eyes indicated something was wrong, but discovering it would take a few steps.

Amy and I will do whatever it takes to make sure Snoop is all right. I’m concerned that part of his problem is old age since he’s either 12 or 13 years old. I all too well understand how each additional year adds to the aches and pains of the body. I also know that if something devastating is the matter that I will make a decision to do what is best for my dog.

Anyone who has a dog doesn’t consider himself an owner. A canine becomes one of the family and soon is considered as important as any human member. The loss of a furry friend hurts as deeply. It’s an odd fact that folks who have so little affection for other persons are so deeply committed to a four-legged creature. We go to extraordinary lengths to protect them and keep them safe from harm.

It’s for sure that few things in life are as devoted as a dog. Even Snoop, who snarls and growls and snaps, will lie down beside Amy or me when he senses something is wrong. Dogs just like to lie around and be petted and patted. Those of us with grown children appreciate that since we sometimes have a longing to love and dote on someone or something since our kids are gone.

Take care of those pets. They are man’s best friends, and their loyalty is second to nothing. As for Riley, Baxter, and Snoop, they’re safe at home and snoozing on the floor at our feet. It’s a reassuring feeling to have them here until their times are up. Then we’ll grieve and learn to get by without them. You can bet it will hurt.