I am convinced dogs are indeed man’s best friend.

My friend is ill. He’s wrestling with challenges capable of melting most of us in our flip-flops. And he never complains, taking life one day and one step at a time.

Sometimes the only thing worse than not knowing is knowing.

But my friend has a dog at his side.

My friend is surrounded by family and people who would eagerly walk across burning coals. Loving, kind and unique he is. There is no forming mold to break. He is a handcrafted, one-of-a-kind canvas of a living, breathing masterpiece. Life, love and the drinking in of all of life’s most interesting offerings shaped his unique soul.

But no matter what, his caramel-colored friend is there to share the journey.

Dogs are remarkably intuitive. They see what can’t be seen, feel what can’t be felt and hear what can’t be said. They are as mystical and real at the same time.

Sitting on my friend’s back porch the other night, his dog invited herself to a cushion. Her head gently dropped into my friend’s lap, his hand softly receiving her gift. His thin, long fingers scratched the short hairs between her ear — his words and attention never distracted. They’ve been doing this for such a long time.

Cool summer nights are rare. Like the subtle temperature difference resulting from a few extra ice cubes in your iced tea, you notice. This night Mother Nature is generous.

My friend is good — good in the sense of managing the biggest challenge in his life. He’s collected and rational, exactly like we say we would be — but also admit to ourselves highly unlikely. Confidence is borne internally, birthed from rough roads, broken loves and repeatedly experiencing both the crescendos and dead cat bounces of life.

Taking a deep breath, my friend’s dog settled in for an extended moment. Does she know what is going on in his head, the voice of distraction he hears becoming more vocal each day? Does she know from his touch where his mind wanders?

I like to believe so.

Call it what you will, but God put man and dogs together for a reason. Yes, there is the caveman theory of protection and help chase down wild game, but something other exists. Dogs own a corner in our hearts and souls like no other.

A lull arrived on the back deck and the night sounds crept in around us. My friend’s dog offered the slightest of movements, inviting further attention. The long thin fingers unknowingly responded to the silent, shared conversation between them. I’m alone.

When someone you love is in pain, you will do anything to help. Say jump on a flight with an hour’s notice, send them the last shirt you own or drop off a plate of cookies. In response to the emptiness we feel, actions become our go-to solution.

But sometimes, all we need to do is follow a dog’s lead and be there.

 

Leonard Woolsey is president of Southern Newspapers Inc. and publisher of The Daily News in Galveston County, Texas.