Hot breath not the worst thing in the world

Published 12:04 am Friday, October 31, 2014

If hot, dog breath is the worst thing that happens to you, you must be having a good day.

As the car pulled out of the parking lot, all four inhabitants were smiling. My wife drove as I sat in the other front seat looking back at my son who was trying to shield himself from the sniffing and licking of the newest member of our family, Liberty.

Liberty was all smiles too and has been smiling for days, the employee at the veterinary clinic said, just before we left Thursday.

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The first time she said it when we went to check on the stray dog last week, I responded that I didn’t know dogs could smile.

“Some do,” she said suggesting that the dog had something to smile about now that he was no longer wandering around with little or no food.

When my wife found the dog way out on Liberty Road last week, she could she the dog’s rib cage through his skin and coat. She found the dog on a stretch of road near the Franklin County line along the Homochitto National Forest. The dog had no collar, but showed signs that he was friendly.

Clearly he had seen better days.

I am not a person who believes that every aspect of life is predestined — that things were just meant to be. But when my wife told me how she met the dog after deciding to take an alternative route home that day, I paused to wonder.

When you work in the newspaper industry, you see and read about a lot of bad things.

As much as Ebola, ISIS, serial murders and school shootings rule the daily headlines, there are many more “bad news” stories that do not get printed. What “good news” there is, gets crowded out by the more sensational stories that feed on people’s emotion and fears.

The same can be said about the local news, I am afraid. As hard as we try to print stories about local people doing good things in our community, news of murder trials, financial problems in city hall, hospital bankruptcies and inmates escaping dominates.

We have become a society where the 24-hour news cycle has us constantly looking over our shoulder waiting for Ebola or some other unknown disaster to strike.

News that has the potential to interrupt our lives at any moment on our computers, electronic tablets and cell phones can take our lives hostage if we let it.

Thankfully, there are daily reminders that liberate us from such thinking.

Such moments are as unpredictable as the breaking news updates on a smartphone.

When my son saw the dog for the first time at the veterinarian’s office is one such moment. I witnessed one of the biggest smiles I have ever seen on Gibson’s face Saturday morning.

Not ready to be taken home, Gibson sat with Liberty, petted him and rested his head on the dog’s shoulders for several minutes.

Those are the moments that make all of life’s worries disappear and make Ebola, ISIS, hospital bankruptcies, inmate escapes, seem so very small.

Five days later, Liberty climbed into the backseat of the car Thursday to go to his new home.

It wasn’t long before the dog gladly climbed into Gibson’s lap sniffing and licking.

When I turned to ask Gibson if everything was OK, Gibson fended off Liberty’s sniffing and licking and said, “He has hot, dog breath.”

Everybody was smiling, especially Liberty.


Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at