We Americans love our lists, and we love to keep track of all sorts of things.
    Recently, I have seen rankings of the latest top grossing movies, the most successful movies of all time, vehicles which use the most gas, vehicles which use the least gas, communities with the highest foreclosure rates and those with the  cheapest, 10 things to do to vacation in one’s own home and our nation’s colleges and universities with the toughest admission standards.
    I am sure I have seen others as well, but those came readily to mind.
    We also love anniversaries of all sorts, and 2008 has a wealth of them. Because 1968 was such a pivotal year in American history and American culture, we have already commemorated the lives and deaths of American icons Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy along with cultural markers like the Broadway musical Hair and the marriage of Jacqueline Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis.{mosimage}
    All of which got me thinking of a sad anniversary looming in the Dickson household.
    We lost our almost 15-year-old Jack Russell terrier, Nicky, last July, and I know I will be thinking of him often over the next several weeks. Nicky was a smart, independent and feisty little dog who generally got his own way and who, unfortunately and embarrassingly, bit several of our friends. In his old age with his sight and hearing fading, he mellowed into the sweetest fellow, loved by everyone in the household and beyond, at least among folks who had not suffered his snapping displeasure.
    Thinking about Nicky inspired me to do the natural American thing — I made a list of all the dogs in my life since my sister and I were little girls growing up in the Fayetteville of the 1950s and 60s.
    Sam was a gun shy Weimaraner, given to our father by a friend who hunted and who had no use for a dog terrified of loud noises. Sam was wonderful with children, though, standing patiently while my sister and I and our neighborhood friends tried to ride him like a horse. I remember him sleeping in the backyard shrubbery in his old age.
    Angel was a present on my ninth birthday. He was a Pekingese, who had no idea he was not a German Shepherd. In the days before leash laws, Angel, his pale hair dirty and sometimes matted as my mother let me learn the responsibility of dog ownership, led the pack of neighborhood pets including Sam and another Weimaraner named Blitz, a black German shepherd named Mr. Henry, a Dalmatian named, yes, Domino, and assorted others. I think my father took considerable ribbing from his friends about Angel.
    Josh was a bouncy and none too bright terrier who often escaped from the fence installed in our back yard to contain him. My father spent a good bit of time chasing him or searching for him, until one day Josh bounced out of our lives altogether.
    Toto was my mother’s West Highland Terrier, whom she adopted when his first family could no longer care for him. Large for his breed, Toto was originally named Hoss after one of the Cartwright brothers on the then-hit television program Bonanza. I inherited Toto after my mother’s death, and he lived out his years in relative quiet with only one major incident. He bit our first child in the face when the baby crawled over to the snoozing old critter.
    There have been others, as well.
    Fanny, the high-strung Schnauzer who once ate half a buttery pound cake and suffered for it as did we. Brownie, the chocolate Lab who will forever be remembered in our family as the Best Dog Ever. She defined our children’s young lives, and her ashes are in our living room today. Maggie, the faux Lab we adopted after Brownie’s death, whose hips were those of a Greyhound and whose astonishing speed took her through the electric fence one day, never to be seen again.
    And now, Lilly, a yellow Lab whose sweetness and enthusiasm for life may give Brownie a run for her title as Best Dog         Ever.
    In true American fashion, I have also made a list of some of my favorite quotations about dogs,
    In no particular order, here goes.
    “The average dog is nicer than the average person.” Andy Rooney.
    “No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as the dog does.” Christopher Morley.
    “There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.” Ben Williams.
    “Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.” Ann Landers.
    “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you, that is the principle difference between a dog and man.” Mark Twain.
    Aldous Huxley really nailed it, though.
    Said Huxley, “To his dog, every man is Napoleon, hence the constant popularity of dogs.”


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