• Dan FitzPatrick

Canine Retirement

Hot and humid. VERY hot and VERY humid.

We’ve recently had a streak of unpleasantly uncomfortable weather locally. My human family refers to this kind of weather as “the dog days of summer,” though Logan and I see nothing dog-like about it (nor do we two dogs like it one bit). Apparently, the phrase is actually a reference to the fact that during this time the Sun occupies the same region of the sky as the star Sirius which is part of the constellation of Canis Major (Latin for the “Greater Dog”). But I digress.

Because of the weather, Logan and I have been spending a lot more time inside our human family’s house, which is somehow cooler than the outside in the summer and warmer than the outside in the winter. As a result, we’ve been listening to more than the usual amount of television news, and I’ve even had the chance surreptitiously to peruse the local newspapers, where I came across an interesting article titled “Greenwich Police Dog Retires After 7 Years of Service.”

It appears that Kato, an 8-year-old (in human terms) German Shepherd, had been working for some time with our local police department in a public safety protection role, but will no longer be doing that. He has “retired” from that job. I was not familiar with that term, so I asked Logan to explain it to me.

“Well, you see Cadbury,” Logan began, “humans arrange their lives around the concept that their sustenance, survival, success and even personal sense of self-worth are connected to the kind of work they do. Some of that work is focused directly on raising and protecting their families, and some of it is focused on activities external to their family life but which ultimately has the same purpose. This is what they mean when they refer to something as a ‘job.’ Kato was given a job for a time, helping the humans keep peace and order in the local community. Apparently, Kato did that job very well, and now it is time for him to stop doing that job, which is what they mean by ‘retirement.’ He now can get back to the business of just being a dog.”

“Why is it that we haven’t been given a job like that ourselves?” I asked.

“We do have a job, Cadbury. Our job is to be constant companions to our humans, to provide them with unconditional love and support, and to bark at the occasional dog, cat, human or big truck passing by, reminding them that we stand on guard to protect those we love. One of the best things about our job is that we will never need to stop doing it. That’s why you were not familiar with the word retirement.”

“Why was Kato given a different job?”

“Dogs and humans are alike in that they can have skills and aptitudes that make them especially well-suited to certain activities. You and I are Australian Shepherds; we were born with high intelligence, athletic capabilities, herding instincts and a naturally deep attachment to our humans. Kato is a German Shepherd; he is also an intelligent herding dog, but his size, appearance and bark are particularly useful in dissuading humans from engaging in behavior that could be harmful to themselves or to others. That’s why he made such a good police dog.”

“Not every dog or human can do every job, but each dog and human has something unique, something special to contribute. We are all born with our own particular aptitudes and talents which can be honed, polished and extended through life experience. If we are lucky, we find or are given jobs that align well with and make the most of those attributes. If you are doing something you love, you will do well at it. The better you do something, the more you will love doing it. It is what is called a ‘virtuous circle.’ That is the basis for the saying ‘If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.’”

“So what will Kato do now in retirement?”

“He has been adopted by his police officer partner, so he will likely do what we do. Given that this work makes us supremely happy, I suspect he will do very well indeed.”

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