Good Dog

By Dan Conaway

TRICKS YOUR DOG TEACHES YOU. Last weekend, the Lawsons’ church retreat was interrupted by loss. A dog had to be put down – more than a dog – Posey had to be put down. The fact that she had long been failing didn’t make the vet’s call any easier to answer, the drive north from Mississippi’s Camp Bratton Green any shorter. Posey came before the other children, before the move to Memphis, came to be part of everything and everybody for 16 years.

A Westie and a Lawson.

All of us who have lost a dog – a friend like that – know that we continue to see them, feel them, in everyday circumstance, in the moments they made moments, even in a dark spot on the rug or a bright spot in the sun, in a chewed corner and in the simple joy of this and that.

I was thinking about that when I got an email from a friend with a list of things that the rector of an Episcopal church in Naples said he’d learned from his dog. Google turned up the same list with a twist or two on multiple sites ranging from the Maritime Law Center to something called the Kill Zone, “Insider perspectives from today’s hottest thriller and mystery writers.”

So here’s a compilation, but first I’ll share a simple exercise that reveals the difference between our loved ones and our dogs. Lock your spouse and your dog in the trunk. Come back in six hours, open the trunk, and see which one is glad to see you.

Twenty Tricks I Learned From My Dog

1. Never pass up a joyride, know how good wind on your face feels. 2. When loved ones come home, run to greet them with a grin and a butt wag. 3. A little discipline gets you stuff. 4. Let others know when they’ve invaded your territory. 5. Take naps. And stretch. A lot. 6. Run and romp daily, treating each day as an adventure. 7. Eat with gusto. 8. Be loyal and love unconditionally. 9. Never pretend to be something you aren’t. 10. If what you want is buried, dig until you find it. 11. When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close and nuzzle now and then. 12. Thrive on attention and let people give you a pat or a scratch. 13. Avoid biting when a simple growl will do. 14. On hot days, drink lots of water and lay under a shade tree. 15. When you’re happy, dance and wag your entire body. 16. Make friends. 17. Carrying grudges is for cats. 18. Bond with your pack. 19. Delight in walks. 20. Long after you’re gone, remain a memory in people’s dreams.

Richard Lawson is the rector of Grace-St. Luke’s, and he’ll preside over the Blessing of the Animals this Sunday afternoon – a mad, magic zoo of an experience, and a poignant one for him.

I’m a Memphian, and I’m guessing a puppy is headed for that family. With Posey’s blessing.

Dan Conaway is a lifelong Memphian, longtime adman and aspiring local character in a city known for them. Reach him at