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With passage of time, opinion on canine companions changes

It happens gradually. Subtle changes that have gone undetected on a daily basis suddenly become evident. A wrinkle here; a change of mind there!

Opinions that once were so strongly etched in a mind that refused to budge little by little become blurred. Our taste in clothes, decor and food slowly shift in ways that years before we didn’t think were possible. We are all definitely a work in progress. Let’s face it. Life has an amazing way of morphing us.

Both of my children came home this past weekend for the wedding of a childhood friend. Just by virtue of the fact that one of their childhood friends was old enough to be married jolted me like a strong cup of coffee.

“Where does the time go?” I wondered as we prepared for the weekend.

Sometimes weddings also bring with them other guests from our pasts that we have not seen in years. Several people with whom I attended high school were there.

It was apparent by the ages of our grown children that we were not still in high school.

To dust off my memory, I decided to dig in the basement for one of my annuals. Within its musty pages lay the proof I had definitely morphed but, that day, my son had already pointed that out.

When Blake comes home, we always exercise together, so Saturday we decided to take a walk, or I should say climb, through our neighborhood hills. Just walking with Blake with his long legs and young body demonstrates how much I have changed. Even though I walk, go to the gym or ride my bike most every day and consider myself somewhat fit, the 22-year age gap between us shows the difference in our endurance and speed. However, Blake assured me it was OK, as I felt a big blister forming on the bottom of my foot.

“After all, Daddy, you ARE almost 50!” he said.

Trying to catch my breath and absorb the reality of his comment at the same time, I decided to put thinking about that on the back burner. Then Blake brought up another way I had clearly changed that really surprised me. “Daddy, can you remember when we were growing up and you wouldn’t allow us to have a dog in the house?” he asked as we rounded a curb on our walk.

For a moment, I was caught off guard. Growing up, I had always lived with dogs and cats but had never allowed my children to have one when they were little. At that time, it was more important for me to have a perfect house filled with artwork and treasures. Bringing a dog into that equation didn’t seem to work in my mind.

When I closed my eyes, I could just see scratched and abused fabric and chewed legs of furniture.

My skin crawled when I thought of urine stains and dog hair. I was emphatic. There was NO way an animal was going to be invited into our home.

No ifs, ands or buts about it!

Every year or so, my children would bring up the dog issue. I stood firm with my decision to live animal-free. Somewhere between when our daughter, Courtney, went away to college and Blake was still in high school, I changed.

I walked past his room at the exact moment he was telling a visiting friend how much he had always wanted a dog. “My dad won’t let me have one,” he said with sadness in his voice.

I froze in place as I realized I had selfishly kept him from having the wonderful relationship that a person can develop with an animal companion just because I was worried about the contents of my house. I felt awful. Since I definitely didn’t want our family to be guests on one of those talk shows that feature troubled families, we immediately started looking for a dog.

Blake was so excited when we found Georgie. We all fell in love with him in a matter of minutes. A year or so later when Blake moved out to attend college, Georgie stayed. Even though he was Blake’s dog, he had also licked his way into our hearts. So, our “nest” was really never empty. Our children were gone but our furry best friend was still with us.

As Blake and I made our way up the last hill of our journey, he said, “Boy, have things changed!” He was right. I could not even imagine Georgie not being a part of our family. He said, “Daddy, this would be a good subject for one of your columns.” I agreed. “I expect you to give me credit,” he continued. I assured him that I would.

When we completed our walk and opened the back door to our house to enter it, we were welcomed by shrill barks, wagging tails, slobbery licks, high jumps and happy eyes.

Yes, that’s right; jumping up and down between a fabric-covered bench full of handmade pillows and a colorful needlepoint rug in our back hallway were THREE white dogs with brownish spots.

I forgot to mention that Courtney now has two dogs (who look very much like Georgie) and had brought them along for the weekend.

Blake turned to me and said, “Years ago, who would have ever thought that three dogs would be running through OUR house?”

He was right. I had morphed. The things that once were very important to me had shifted.

There may be a stain here or a shredded piece of fabric there with small white hairs attached, but it is a small price to pay for all the love we have received from Georgie.

More FROM Mark

Ÿ Southern Style with Mark Ballard: In The Telegraph on July 26.

Find out more about how Georgie and the Ballards found one another, get great tips on back-to-school fashion and enjoy a great wedding planning section.

Ÿ Check out Mark’s Web site, www.markballard.com, for current projects, recipes and lots of other fun stuff for summer. Mark is on www.macon.com 24 hours a day. Videos, columns and articles are featured.

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; fax them to (478)474-4390 or call (478) 757-6877.

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