Commentary: Furry medicine for whatever ails us

By John Krull 

INDIANAPOLIS – Mark Twain said it best.

“The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog,” Twain wrote.

John Krull, publisher,


I spend much of my time talking with and writing about politicians. Republicans or Democrats, most of them are likable enough people, even if they often treat the truth as if it were a communicable disease and view human relationships as if they were cashiers’ checks.

My dog is different.

He asks so little and gives so much.

And he does it all while wagging his tail.

We got him three years ago. Our children had laid siege to my wife and me. They began begging for a dog almost as soon as they could talk.

We resisted, for a couple of reasons.

The first was that our daughter is allergic to almost every form of animal fur. We didn’t relish the idea of having her march through childhood and early adolescence with runny eyes and plagued by constant sneezing.

The second reason was that, despite the children’s pledges and protestations, we had a pretty good idea who was going to end up doing the largest portion of caretaking for any dog we might get.

It wasn’t going to be the kids.

A friend resolved the first problem. She told us about some dogs that were hypoallergenic, which meant they wouldn’t trigger our daughter’s allergies.

That left the second problem.

Our son and our daughter ramped up their campaign. They argued. They pleaded. They promised.

I was the last holdout. I told my wife and children that I knew who would be taking the dog out in the backyard to go the bathroom in the wee hours. My children assured me they would do that.

I chuckled.

And surrendered.

We went to pick out our cavapoo – half King Charles spaniel, half poodle.

Originally, we thought we wanted a female, but one little guy – the runt of the litter, no less – climbed and scrambled all over us, as if to say:

Pick me. Pick me. I’m your dog and you’re my people.

We named him Dewey, after my grandfather.

The first few nights we had him home he had to get up to go the bathroom every couple of hours. My children slept soundly. Dewey and I got acquainted by walking around the backyard, strolling in the dark until he could find spots where he’d be comfortable doing his business.

We bonded.

He became attached to me, perhaps more so than anyone else in the family. He started following me around the house, waiting for me to sit down. When I did, he leapt onto my lap and settled down for a quiet nap.

And, despite my initial resistance, I became devoted to him.

We started taking long walks together, most often around the neighborhood, but sometimes in parks. I’d walk behind him, leash in hand, as he trotted along, nose close to the ground, trying to catch a scent and follow it to something interesting.

More than once I’ve mused that journalists work in much the same way Dewey does.

I’ve also discovered that, after a long, wearying day in which some politician or another has treated the truth like toilet paper or done something awful in the service of ambition, that few things are more soothing than having Dewey sit on my lap as I sip a glass of wine and read a book or watch the sun set through the kitchen window.

We now are almost inseparable.

When he was just a puppy, he sometimes wanted to sit in my lap while I wrote. These days, he’s content to rest – as he’s doing at this moment – in a little dog bed just a few feet from my desk. He snoozes there, oblivious to the tapping of the keys, but instantly alert if I get up from my seat.

Often, so often, Dewey provides solace in a troubled world, furry, gentle medicine to combat whatever may ail us.

At first, my children joked that Dewey was their brother. Now they don’t laugh when they say it.

And my wife and I refer to him as our “furry” child.

That Mark Twain was a smart guy.

The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog, too.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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One Response to Commentary: Furry medicine for whatever ails us

  1. Yup! Pups are great for empty nesters too! Ours is now 14, she hobbles, doesn’t hear so well, but we can’t imagine life without her. She is also slightly demented. She gets outside, but forgets why. Still, we love her beyond reason. She sits on the couch all day and is in the middle of our bed all night. We will sorely miss her when she is gone. Children go on and have their own lives, separate from us, but Pepper will be with us until she isn’t. Then we shall cry.