I have had some great dogs in my life. I’m talking first ballot Hall of Famers.
When I was a kid, I had BD, a German Shepherd who was the greatest dog a boy could ever have. When I was in college, I had Montgomery, a purebred mutt that was the first joint purchase my wife and I made some 20 years ago and was the most loyal friend you could ever ask for. We had Maggie the Attack Basset, a noble and gentle soul who showed aggression at about the same level as a dandelion. And we currently have Maddux the Stoic, a boxer who is regal and obedient and fiercely protective.
It’s like a Mt. Rushmore of canine companionship.
And then there’s Murphy. Murphy is our Dachshund. He’s kinda dumpy. Our vet once suggested he go on a diet, as he was meatloaf shaped. He really doesn’t listen well. Or, really, at all. I’m pretty sure his eyesight is going, mainly based on the fact that he routinely walks into the sliding glass door when trying to go outside.
He has never met a trash can he has not tried to turn over. If there is trash inside the can, all the better. Let’s spread it around the kitchen for everyone to enjoy! No trash? No problem! Let’s tip it over and just root around inside and shred the plastic bag.
When we take him to the beach, he will go to the ocean and drink the water.
If you are in the kitchen, there is no place he would rather be than between your feet, usually stealthily sneaking up there so that you don’t realize he’s there until you almost trip over him as you go to open the oven.
Murphy does not have the toughness of BD. He doesn’t have the loyalty of Montgomery. He doesn’t have the royal disposition of Maggie. And he doesn’t have the stoicism of Maddux.
He’s got bum eyes, a bit of a girth issue, an inability to pay attention, and an appetite for destruction in the kitchen, of things both inanimate and animate. Not exactly the things you put on your dog resume.
But you know what, that dog does have something none of the others I’ve had did: He has the ability to appear positively worthless, but also be just an awesome dog for just being who he is.
We got Murphy about 10 years ago. A co-worker passed away, and we ended up with Murphy. We had planned to find Murphy a home, and we tried a couple of places here and there, to no avail. My wife and I were sitting with him one night, planning for the next step for finding him a home. “You know,” my wife said. “He’s a pretty sweet dog…”
And so it was written. Murphy joined our home. Murphy routinely dug out of the yard and would end up all over the place. We always got a call (our number is on his collar), usually from someone who had picked him up in the middle of a road, where he walked down the middle of the street, oblivious to every danger around him.
It’s not like he was trying to escape. Well, I guess he was escaping. But he wasn’t doing it with any urgency. He was just ambling about, seeing where life took him.
And I guess that’s what I admire about Murphy. He’s all about where life takes him. He sees something he wants to do, and he just does it. He’s got no strings attached to life, no real higher purpose, and no reason to do anything but what he feels like he should do next.
Don’t get me wrong. He does have some upsides. He likes to snuggle up with my wife, assuming he can sit wherever he wants. And he is a very good defender against enemies of the house, making sure to bark soundly at possums, armadillos, box turtles, and the occasional imaginary invader. But he’s just kinda living by his own creed. Life is on his dime.
There is something enviable about the fact that he just lives his life how we wants to. The other great dogs in my life — they sought me out for affirmation (and dog biscuits). Murphy’s good in his own fur. He’ll just live his life how he wants to, thank you very much.
Now lest you think he is some sociopathic drifter who just occupies my house as a captive plotting revenge and escape, I assure you — he is not a cat. He’s just a simple creature with a simple goal in life — go and be Murphy. And sometimes, that’s OK.
That’s worth at least a few votes on his first Hall of Fame ballot.
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Charleston. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.