The Amazing World of Dogs

Gayle and Mary at KnowledgeNookThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

An important event in the dog world takes place very soon – the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Dog breeders, handlers, and their furry charges will gather later this week in New York City for the 139th annual show, and the “pick of the litter” will be seen on national television.

There are many events leading up to the televised segment, which showcases the best of breeds within seven groups: Terrier, Sporting, Non-sporting, Herding, Toy, Working, and Hound. Discover the various breeds within these groups at this website:

Two new breeds will be featured at the 2015 show: the Wire-haired Vszla and the Coton de Tulear. I am always excited to learn about new dog breeds, to read about their personalities, origins, and roles in life today. The world of dogs is certainly amazing!

Little Red
Little Red, a “Vicktory dog”, who, after spending years as part of the horrible life under Michael Vick and his dog fighting ring, now lives happily as a family pet in Wyoming.

Mary and Gayle_KindersSpeaking in elementary schools this year, I’ve focused on the various jobs dogs have in life: herders and protectors of livestock, such as the border collie and Great Pyrenees; K9 and military dogs, including the Belgian Malinois and the German Shepherd; hunting and retrieving dogs such as the black Labrador, setters, and spaniels; guide and assistance dogs, including golden retrievers and yellow labs; search and rescue dogs, such as the bloodhound and giant schnauzers; and therapy dogs, which can be nearly any breed, large or small. Even one of the Michael Vick fighting dogs turned out to be an excellent therapy dog; Hector visited nursing homes, hospitals, and schools, a great testament to the resiliency within dogs (and to the fact you can’t judge a book – this case a dog – by its cover, err, fur!). One of those “Vicktory Dogs” lives in Wyoming, and though I haven’t met Little Red personally, a photograph of her that I bought in 2013 at an auction to help support Black Dog Animal Rescue hangs in my office, quietly testifying to the trait of endurance and the beauty of hope. Dogs with Jobs is a presentation I’m giving often to elementary aged children, opening their minds to the amazing world of dogs and concluding with a reminder that the job of “friend” (which most of our dogs have) is also an important one!

I am amazed by dogs: their intelligence, ability, forgiveness and perseverance, among so many other traits. Even those brought into rescue, although it may take some time for them to trust people again, eventually discover their true personality when given a loving, stable home. Organizations such as National Mill Dog Rescue and Best Friends Animal Sanctuary rescue, rehabilitate, and re-home dogs (and in the case of Best Friends, other creatures) providing a critical service to the animals in our nation that are abused, neglected, and unwanted (at least for a short time!), giving them love, acceptance, and hope in addition to the food, water, and shelter they need. I am in awe what these groups do, how much they want to help and how they strive to place a pet in a loving home.

Sage_River_MissouriStateDuring my lifetime I have been blessed to share life with five dogs. Many know about Sage, my blind springer spaniel, but dogs have been part of my life since I was a child. I was 11 when I had my very own dog; he was a German Shorthaired Pointer that would not hunt for my dad. “Whitey” was my companion on our little Iowa farm, following me through field and forest. A few years after he died, I picked out a ½ shepherd, ¼ fox terrier, and ¼ coyote 8-week old puppy. “Bridgette” and I also shared jaunts in the woods, both in Iowa and in Wyoming. Her honey-colored, wavy hair and brown mask made most people turn and stare at her stunning beauty. “Sam” came into my life during my late 20s, an unclaimed stray cocker spaniel I adopted from the Bozeman, Mont., Humane Society; he was my life’s co-pilot for more than 10 years. “Sage” became part of my life after I married my husband Greg, and because of this sweet, special girl I am an author and speaker. This blind English springer spaniel taught me SO MUCH about life and faith, and I continue to share her story – and those lessons she taught – nearly three years after her passing from cancer. “Cody” and “Mary,” our 17-year-old cocker spaniel and 9-year-old ½ springer, ½ cocker, bring us great joy (and many challenges due to age and health). Both are rescue animals and both are therapy dogs (Mary formally trained, Cody just because he “is”). I am thankful for each one of these companions because each dog has brought beauty to my life.Mary_StoryHour_holdingpaw

Cody_dog park

Dogs are incredibly special. They wait by the door for us to come home. They search for lost children and hikers. They lead their blind humans safely across busy streets. They rescue drowning people, even complete strangers. They protect their homes, livestock charges, and humans from harm. They bring smiles to the faces of sick children in hospitals and lonely elders in nursing homes. And they place their heads on our knees when we cry and lay beside us in bed when we’re sick. Whether they are herders, hunters, service animals, or simply friendly companions, dogs are bestowers of light to our lives and teachers about life as well.

Will you be watching the Westminster Dog Show on TV next week? It’s scheduled to air on CNBC and USA Networks on Monday and Tuesday evenings, Feb. 16 and 17. Learn more about the TV schedule at Which dog will win the Best in Show? Stay tuned to find out!

And, those of you who prefer cats: I promise to write something about kitties next time!

gayle and sage_smallerGayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and two dog devotion books: Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God and Devotions for Dog Lovers 2: Sage Advice. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including The Dog Did What?, released August 2014. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and volunteers for and donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. Her speaking engagements include presentations for children and adults about the lessons people can learn from pets. Visit her website at

SageBigAdventureFront-small   SageLearnsShareFront-small   Walking_FrontCover_small   Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014


15 thoughts on “The Amazing World of Dogs

  1. Beautiful. A heartfelt homage to dogs and their gift to the world. Although, as you know I’m a cat person, I’ve had some amazing dogs in my life. Thank you for a thoughtful post my friend. Doris


  2. As always, I enjoyed this post Gayle. It clearly shows your love of dogs and I am amazed that you find the time to do so much for them. You are a special person. As we walked in the door after church this morning we smiled as out little Shih Tzu begged to be let out of the cage, jumping with joy and giving us kisses when we opened the door. It feels so good to have such love and she brings us a lot of joy. Thank you for putting in the link for the Westminster show. My husband and I both love it and we’ll be watching. I also enjoyed the other links, but was heartbroken at the case of Lily, the dog who was only used for having puppies, living in a cage with no people contact until she was rescued. I cannot understand how people can do such evil things. It’s people like you who spread the word, rescue those in need and find them forever families. I’m reblogging this for my readers who love the Westminster Show and I’m sure they’ll enjoy this post. Thank you!


    1. Linda, your sweet words encourage me so! Thank you! I wish I could do more, and I am completely amazed by those wonderful rescue people, staff and volunteers, who get in the trenches and put their boots to the ground on behalf of the voiceless creatures that share our planet. I’m thankful for the small things I can do now and hope to do more in the future. Thank you for reblogging, and thank you for loving your special little four-footed friend!


  3. Enjoyed your blog Gayle. As always. I guess I “rescued” my Shar Pei dog when I bought her to raise puppies, but let her be part of the family. Before that, her first three years were lived in a cage with little human contact. She didn’t know how to come to her name being called or enjoy being petted when I first got her. She learned what love was and became “connected” with me in a special way. I helped her raised two litters then retired her as my loyal companion. Both my husband and I cried when we had to lay her to rest. And those puppies were fat, wrinkled, little chuncks of love too. Dogs are amazing.


    1. Yes, Neva, I would say you rescued her from a life of cage-living and little human interaction. I can never understand why people do that, greed I guess. Compassion and empathy are emotions some people do not have and it’s truly impossible for me to understand. Thank heavens for those who see animals as part of God’s creation, made by the same Creator Who made us, and Who called ALL of His creation “good.” We will miss you at Writer’s Group this month! Enjoy your vacation!! 🙂


  4. It’s excellent to hear about misused dogs who not only find a new home (like the dog fighting ring one) but also a new and valuable purpose in life. Great reading in your post, Gayle. I’ve never had a dog in my home and can’t judge in any way but I have seen some new breeds that just seem plain weird.


  5. I enjoyed your post. If I had my way, I would adopt every stray dog and cat that came along. (I think my parents thought I did.) By the way, have you seen the video of the sheep that had been raised with dogs? The dogs are trying to herd it, but the sheep is happily oblivious to their efforts. Very cute.


  6. Love dogs, cats and all animals. My dad always had hunting dogs, Prince, King, Queenie, or some other royalty. My first very own pet was my cat Tom. Next was my hunting dog that belonged to everyone. Then I lived in a an area where people dropped off their dogs, so I had a varity-bear a big black shepard, more hunting dogs, a Pomeranian, and I can’t remember, then Dad gave me a coon dog that had bad feet- I named him Poochie. Then we got the kids a couple of shelter dogs- shepherds, after I gave all the other dogs away-all 12 of them, except the Pom, which ended up being pregnant by both of shepherds, and had 2 pups that lived. Someone stole the Pom and the Shepherds. We gave away the pups. Then was a period of St. Bernards. One got stolen, from a different location than where the other dogs got stolen, one St Bernard from a shelter, was mean had to take her back, and third one turned mean too, but not to us. Then we started Great Danes, loved all of them, and another Pom. When they all died, we got the boxer, and then Tootsie, our Cairn Terrier. I had about 4 or 5 cats in between. Cher’ley


  7. Rescue dogs are the best. They are loyal and loving. Our girl Val ( a Valentines day surprise many years ago) is a rescue dog. For years she has brought laughter, protection and love into our home.

    She is now 12 years old and is loosing her hearing. She still wants to greet me when I come home each day. Her solution to not being able to hear me come in is to park herself behind the front door. When I open it I bump her with the door and get my greeting.


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