The elder statesdog

Several names come to mind when I watch Katy at work these days:


Dog of substance.


Katy is a therapy dog and works mostly during the school year. But she spends the bulk of her time around our home as a model of calmness and a nap-trainer. That is, she is excellent at snoozing.

Until now. Katy, at age 10, has a new job as trainer of Buddy, who is by turns a toddler, a teenager and a tempest.

Buddy is a puppy, less than one year old. He has been a part of the family only a week–just long enough for a wellness check and for the brief surgical procedure that rhymes with tutoring.

Today was a first. Buddy learned how to catch food morsels.

Give credit to Katy, the expert catcher of all things delicious. And occasionally a ball, if she wants to keep that pesky round thing away from someone else. She wants to make clear she is not a retriever.

The togetherness of Katy and Buddy–or whether there would be any unity at all–concerned us before Buddy came to live here. Would our old dog tolerate a new dog?

For most of her life, Katy was blessed with her own special dog-guide when she came to us fresh off the streets of Waco. From her adopted brother she learned techniques for jumping into and riding in a car, sweeping the back yard for varmints, walking with pride beside a person.

Her friendship with her dog sage ended with his death almost three years ago.

People worried about Katy.

“How is she handling her only-dog status?” they asked. And, “Are you getting another dog?”

We didn’t know. We thought about what to do. We helped rescue a street dog, who turned out to be more of a fighter than a lover.

We thought about dogs some more.

Then we saw Buddy’s picture. His face resembled Katy’s when she first came to us as a puppy. Questioning. Anxious.

We, including Katy, met Buddy at the local animal shelter. Katy was politely playful. Or playfully polite. Buddy was all puppy.

“You can take him home and see how they do,” the manager offered. “Bring him back if it does not work.”

Wise woman. She also told us:

  • That Katy would teach Buddy good things. He is learning mealtime manners and how to behave around friendly strangers.
  • That Katy would “put him down” when she tired of non-stop puppy antics. She has done so, in her nonviolent-but-crystal-clear style.

The elder statesdog is a teacher of people, too. As in:

  • The benefits of letting Buddy run his energy out while conserving her own.
  • That if we want Buddy to get in the back of the car unaided, Katy must lead the way.
  • That an old dog can teach a new dog old tricks. Like catching tasty morsels.
  • That unrestrained puppies bring joy.

Now friends’ questions about Katy have changed. “How is she doing with the new dog?”

Our answer: She is adapting by using her head. This is a lesson for every living thing.

Pictures tell the story best.


  1. Jackie Connelly said:

    Thanks for writing this happy story. There is hope to finding best “buddies” in our golden years. You brought a smile to my face today. JC

    June 25, 2017
    • Thanks for calling it a happy story, Jackie. We need more happiness in our lives. We can do no better than a happy dog.

      June 25, 2017
  2. Jeanette Kelly said:

    Thank you Barbara! This is so timely for us, because we have always had “special canine family members”! Our Ozzy of 13 years passed away recently after a very brief cancer diagnoses. We have been heartbroken and will rethink a new “Ozzy” in the fall.
    Your wonderful article makes me smile and realize we, too, need our canine friends as much as they need us!
    Thank you,

    June 25, 2017
    • See how long it took us! Each of our dogs has come to us in a different way and became family members in short order. But adding to the family is a big step. Let me know what you do.

      June 25, 2017
  3. Jeanette Kelly said:

    Loved loved this article even more after reading it to my husband!

    June 25, 2017
    • I love that you read it to him! My writers’ group reads each other’s work aloud and it is so much fun to hear a story. Thank you, Jeanette.

      June 25, 2017

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