Loving Lincoln

Remember when people smoked anywhere they pleased? Teachers lit up in the classroom. Grocery shoppers puffed away at the supermarket. Passengers flicked their Bics in airplanes. Drinkers blew smoke rings in bars. There were seemingly no limits. The world was a smoker's oyster. But things change.

One of my coworkers recently recalled a conversation with his family about the sea changes in attitudes about issues like smoking. As the family wondered what currently acceptable social practices might be off limits in the future, his mother-in-law quipped that Americans might have the good sense to ban dogs from their homes. I thought to myself, Amen, brother.

Dogs. Who needs them? They smell, they bark, they shed, they tear up furniture, pee on the floor, poop in the yard, and put muddy paw prints on new linen pants. I never understood America's obsession with pets. But that was before an eight-week-old Doberman pinscher came to live in my house against my will. My partner was to blame. He had to have a dog.

I didn't want the puppy, but I got him. So I named the little guy Lincoln and learned to love him. Things change.

If I'd heard about Jeff Dorson's crusade to end dog-fighting (page 20) prior to acquiring Lincoln, you probably wouldn't be reading about Jeff's courageous adventures in the pages of this issue of the Bulletin. I would have been intrigued, but would have failed to understand the magnitude of his accomplishments. Sure, animal abuse is terrible, but aren't there bigger things in life to worry about?

Lincoln has taught me to think otherwise. Now I know why Mahatma Ghandi said, "The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated." Now I know why they say a dog is man's best friend. And now I know why people put up with the hair, the smell, and the mess. I get it. I'm a dog guy now.

Every day is a new adventure for a puppy like Lincoln. Christmas, for example, brings a wealth of new treasures. Neighbors' discarded boxes and packaging at the curb offer new things to sniff during morning walks. One crisp December day he snags a piece of packing styrofoam twice the size of his head. He proudly struts with it in his mouth, head tilted high, for the rest of our walk. There is one lamppost that always appeals to him more than the others. I don't know why. It must smell better.

He stopped in his tracks when he saw his first snow. After a few bewildered seconds, he spastically scurried to and fro, trying to catch snowflakes in his mouth. When a doorbell rings on TV, Lincoln runs to our front door and waits for the visitor who isn't there. When I brush my teeth and shave in the morning, he sits next to me until I'm finished. And he doesn't just want to be near me, he has to be touching me. If I move two inches to the right, Lincoln moves two inches to the right.

Lincoln loves lotion, particularly Lancôme with an SPF of 15. Who knew dogs were so concerned about skin care? He won't tolerate closed doors. He won't go outside unless I go with him. He's scared of deer, and kids are a mystery to him. He hates the rain.

Animal lovers shouldn't hold my previous views against me. It's not that I hated dogs, I just didn't get it. I didn't have a dog as a child, and I grew up scared to death of the enormous St. Bernard next door named "Tippy Toes."

In addition to liking Lincoln, I like discovery. It's one of my favorite things. I'm never too old to learn. Never too stubborn to change my mind. And in the course of changing my mind I discover something wonderful. Like Lincoln.

Things change.

--Shawn Presley is the editor of the Bulletin. Owning a dog means he now gets up at 5:00 a.m. each day for thirty minutes of playtime before he leaves his home in New Albany, Ohio, for the fifty-minute commute to Gambier.

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