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Blog No. 18: Unquestionable Devotion

MIDDLEBURG, VA --- Unquestioned devotion and love are hard to find. In fact, unrequited love is much more common than unquestioned love.

I have been fortunate in my life to have the love of a magnificent woman, my wife, Elizabeth May. She may not always agree with me. I’m sure at times; she’d like to strangle me. But of one thing I am certain: My wife of almost 35 years loves me.

And my kids love me. They may at times not understand what I’m saying. And they often disagree with me on a wide variety of issues. They constantly question me. “Why do we need to do that?” is a common refrain from my two sons and one daughter. And I’m okay with that. It’s after all how their mother and I raised them, to question authority.

Many of my longest, oldest and most loyal friends are always questioning my actions or deeds. “I don’t agree with what you’re saying, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it,” my buddy Bob Hagan, who has been my friend since 1977, told me in January.

In fact, as I think about the many blessings I have, surrounded by friends, family and loved ones, I realize there is really only one individual who never questions me, who is totally devoted to me and who hangs on my every gesture, whim and word --- my dog, Betty Grable.

Betty is a beagle. She is a rescue dog who was born in South Carolina. Apparently she was abandoned. She was found, we were told, after living on the streets for weeks. She was in a dog pound moving toward an early and untimely demise when, through fate, fortune and the good deeds of the Animal Rescue folks, we were able to adopt Betty and bring her to Virginia.

For several years Betty would accompany me to work every morning. She would sit under my desk, and quietly listen as I talked on the phone, or was in a meeting, or would be doing paperwork. Always there, always listening, never whining or complaining. In fact, when I sold my company last summer and started working from home, Betty was very confused. She would sit by the front door and wait for me to put on my coat, grab my briefcase and head to the office.

Clearly I was upsetting her routine.

Now, Betty never makes me explain my actions or myself. She never for a moment doubts my sincerity and love. In fact, she is reliable, loyal, and genuinely devoted to me. And for that, I am truly grateful.

Harry Truman famously once said that if you want a friend in Washington, buy a dog. Bill Clinton took Truman’s advice to heart as the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke and impeachment proceedings were formulating against him. He bought a dog. Buddy.

Human psychologists have written a lot, and animal rights organizations have too, about the symbiotic relationship between humans and their pets.

Having a dog is, according to Dogvacay, a web site, is good for you: “Dog owners have been found to have lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, fewer heart attacks, and according to a study by the British Journal of Health (2004), dog owners also have the added benefit of having fewer medical problems than those without pets.”

No, really, there’s such a website. Here’s a link to the Dogvacay blog that details why dogs are good for humans:

My dog Betty is a genuine example of a loyal and reliable friend --- she never argues or disagrees with me. She is constantly looking out for my safety and welfare. Sometimes, when I worked late at the office Betty would nudge me, reminding me of the late hour. I would gather my belongings and take her outside for a walk before heading home.

Home, after all, is where the dinner is.

Without her, my life would be less complete. It would certainly be quite different.

Betty also doesn’t like the MLB XM radio channel. She prefers classical music on the car stereo. And jazz. She likes jazz music.

And clearly, my dog’s car radio listening habits are not that unusual.

In a fascinating piece of cross marketing, Subaru discovered several years ago the extraordinary correlation between Subaru owners and Dog owners. It turns out that today 50 percent of Subaru owners in the United States own a dog, according to Ad Week. Many own more than one --- dog that is, not Subaru.

And Subaru isn’t fooling around; they’ve even gone to the dogs, by showing ads with a Golden Retriever driving his doggie family to work in a Subaru. “Love, it what makes a Subaru and Subaru” is their current TV campaign. And it’s working. Subaru market share is skyrocketing. According to Automotive News, “Subaru was expected to sell 615,000 vehicles in the United States in 2016 up about 5.5 percent from the 582,675 it sold in 2015. Year-end numbers haven’t been posted yet, though a third quarter report had them at about 4% year-over-year growth, indicating they’d grow in the US for the eighth year in a row.”

There’s no doubt Subaru makes good cars. And with the shift at Volvo to the upside in cost, Subaru has really taken over the family station wagon market to a large number of middle-class American families.

But their focus on dog lovers is pretty, well doggone smart, tying in the emotion of dog ownership with the emotion of buying a safe and reliable car.

Which probably explains why Betty loves riding in my Subaru Outback so much.

Anyway, total devotion; be it to your dog, your family, or your car, ain’t all bad.

Now if I could just figure out a way to get Betty to stop opening the windows while we drive….

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