The purpose of a dog

Posted:  Thursday, September 20, 2018 - 1:30pm

About this blog:

  • Frank Barnako is a seasonal resident of Wiscasset at Clarks Point on the Sheepscot River.   His career in journalism included on air and news director positions with CBS and NBC Radio and TV stations.  He was a pioneer in the Internet, helping to create and co-founding where he developed a 200-station radio network and wrote daily columns focused on the stock market, business news, and technology. Barnako describes himself as “an aspiring photographer,” whose work can be seen at<>. He is a member of the town’s Investment Advisory Committee. Email him at

My wife Donna and I have always had dogs.  We have lived with one or two dogs at a time, for almost 50 years. It’s the last few weeks which have taught us ‘old dogs’ new tricks.

Two weeks ago, we were excitedly walking from the Paris Metro to the Marais neighborhood where we had rented an apartment for ten days.

Donna led the way across the street.  She fell.  

Two hours later, she was in the hospital. The X-rays showed a broken hip. 

Two days more and she was out of surgery, but in the hospital for four more days.  We spent the final afternoons of our trip in the courtyard of a hotel, where Donna began using her crutches.

The flight back, from Paris to Portland, was as comfortable as you might imagine. Kudos to United Airlines which provided wheelchair navigators at de Gaulle and Newark, facilitating us through check-in and security.  

Neighbors met us at the airport. Dog lovers, they realized it was important for us to pick up Pippa from the Coastal Dog in Edgecomb, where she’d been boarded.  We got there in plenty of time and 23 hours after we’d awakened in Paris, we were home in Wiscasset.

From the moment Pippa got in the car, she knew things were different.  We wouldn’t let her get close to Donna, whom she adores.  One wrong push of a paw could have caused some real pain. It appeared Pippa understood. She was not frightened by Donna’s crutches. Pippa was content to simply lay beside Donna’s chair. Pippa was gentle and quiet.  And even in the wee small hours of the morning, Pippa slept quietly as Donna moved around the bedroom.  She had moved from ‘protected’ to protector. She expressions seem to reflect an understanding as we talk or meet the challenges of moving around the house.

The dog has become a nurse.  She does not ask attention, she gives affection.  Her inner clock continues to operate for walks and lunch/dinner, but she is not demanding.  She is mellow.  On her walks with me she does not run off to explore.  She stays close, as she does when Donna will walks her alone.

So, when I was sent to Ames True Value to refill Pippa’s dog treat larder, I was more than willing - until I tried to find he treats.  I must have walked up and down Ames’ half-a-dozen dog food aisles three times.  Variety is overwhelming: Dogswell Jerky, Dog Treats Peanut Butter, True Chews, PureBites. BilJac, Blue Bars and more!  Talk about confusing!

But, as any parent will tell you, ‘nothing’s too good for the baby’.  So I kept walking and hunting.  After about ten minutes, I found the brand I wanted; there was no bacon flavor but there was turkey, which was good enough. 

While we were away, there was a memorial service for a friend of 45 years.  He was also a dog lover - he loved big dogs.  And in his last five years of illness, he would tell me how his “Cubby” was watching out for him, staying by his side, offering comfort and warmth.

Now, with Pippa, we are seeing the same phenomenon.  It’s called love.