Victoria and I had been working with a rural shelter that had contacted us about a hound who was running out of time. He was a young adult, medium-sized, and had a good personality. We had space, and we liked the way this woman stated her case.
We arranged a transport to get Joey to Victoria’s house, and then into his foster home. As always, I was excited to hear about the new arrival, so I called Victoria soon after Joey arrived. She told me, reluctantly, that Joey wasn’t quite as advertised. He was upwards of 70 pounds and 7 years old if he was a day. Worst of all, he had a leg that had been broken and wasn’t ever set, so it was shorter than the other three. That wasn’t a cosmetic defect. It meant that Joey was set up to have bad joint pains and arthritis, and he was probably already living in some discomfort. In other words, this shelter had completely screwed us over. We thought we were getting a dog we could place in a month or two, but now we had one who might take twice or three times that.
A few hours later, I talked to Victoria again. She seemed calm. She wasn’t worried about finding a good home for Joey now that she had spent some time with him. She assured me he was just a really nice dog, and anyone would be lucky to have him as a pet. But how to market Joey? Who was going to read through the Petfinder listing of a nondescript, nearly-senior, excessively large dog with a permanent limp? How were we going to make it clear why Joey was a total catch?
We discussed the merits of Joey at length, and it finally boiled down to this: he was really, really good at being a dog. He was happy-go-lucky, optimistic, not too bright, and not too ambitious except in the area of getting affection. He wasn’t exceptional at all — he was an Everydog. His purpose in life was to find an owner and love them unconditionally. He wasn’t special, but to him, his human was. And that unconditional love, that accepting nature, was what made Joey the kind of dog that no one ever forgets. He was the dog of a lifetime.
I don’t know who said it first, but I do know it was said with great enthusiasm and conviction, “Joey is one of the All-Time Greats.” No hyperbole there. He just was.
We knew we were on to something. After that, when we were describing a dog we knew was amazing despite the fact that there was nothing outwardly special about them, we’d say to each other with great authority, “One of the All-Time Greats.” BOOM. That was all we needed.
Victoria wrote the following about Joey in his profile:
What makes him so special? When you meet Joey, you recognize him immediately. He is the dog who waited at the bus stop, the dog who sat patiently in your wagon. He’s the dog you shared your ice cream cone with, threw the ball with, and into whose strong, solid neck you sobbed your youthful heartbreaks. He is a dog who lumbers in, and in a moment, you are smiling, your faith restored. He is the dog you think of when you hear the expression “Man’s best friend.”
Could there be higher praise for any animal? I don’t think so.
We’ve all had dogs who have distinguished themselves in some way — through their antics, their intelligence, their heroics, their epic cuteness — and it’s not hard to explain what made them so special. But if you’ve ever floundered trying to find words to describe that nondescript dog who adored you with all of their heart, well, you’ve got them now: you’ve loved, and been loved by, one of the All-Time Greats. There are thousands of them out there, and if you are lucky, by the time you shuffle off this mortal coil, you’ll have met at least one.