By Donna Lupinacci, Connecticut and Florida

After our children were grown and my husband, Tony, and I retired, we brought new furry friends into our lives. We downsized considerably since my husband’s retirement and added travel to our bucket list of things we wanted to do before leaving this world.

We used to have several Labrador retrievers, but as these dogs passed, we began adopting small-breed dogs. Let me introduce you now to a special family member who has a job to do, a purpose he loves to fulfill, and is a daily reminder that we are loved unconditionally. Hobie is an adorable tricolor Welsh corgi.

We had recently lost our yellow Lab when we got Hobie as a buddy for our other yellow Lab, Sage. Sage and Hobie quickly became best friends. They shared each other’s company for two years before we prematurely lost Sage to cancer. Hobie was devastated at the loss of his best friend and grieved for her. So we sought out a new companion for him.

I searched animal-rescue websites and found a cute, part-yellow Lab, part-corgi dog named Gracie. After she joined our family, we soon found that she had many fear issues. She trusted us immediately, but strangers meant danger to her. We socialized her as much as possible. Little by little, Gracie learned to trust other people more.

Stan and Buddy

I understood Gracie’s emotional needs well. Dogs have been a regular part of my life as a professional pet groomer for over forty years. My clients have become my good friends, with generations of their families bringing dogs to me for grooming. As you can imagine, I’ve heard amazing stories about the love between people and their pets.

One story that stands out from the rest came from my friend Trudy. Trudy’s husband, Stan, had been outside working in their yard for a long time. It started to get late in the day, and Trudy realized she hadn’t seen or heard from Stan in a while. She looked from window to window to see where he was. Then she spotted their German shepherd-mix dog, Buddy, sitting at the fence line of the yard. Oddly for him, because he was usually energetic, Buddy was not moving.

Trudy called to Stan, but he didn’t respond. She tried to call Buddy, but the dog would not come inside. This was unusual; Buddy was ordinarily very responsive to Trudy. Trudy put on her coat and walked into the yard to find Buddy pacing along the fence. She looked beyond the fence and saw Stan lying on the ground. He had had a heart attack.

Buddy’s bond with Stan was so great that he would not leave his side. I treasure Trudy’s story as a true example of the unconditional love and loyalty a dog can give to a person.

Road Trip!

My husband and I share this kind of special bond with our pups as well. I feel that a dog should be a part of the family and included in as many of the family’s activities as possible. This is why, when Tony and I make day trips to scenic views where we can picnic, we usually take our pups with us. Hobie and Gracie love to go for rides. They are like our kids. We always have their best interests in mind. We pack our car with lawn chairs and Kindle e-book readers for us; we include a tennis ball, dog treats, and a bowl of water for the dogs. Then off we go.

After Tony retired from his job in Connecticut, we had the good fortune of starting to winter in Florida. Connecticut winters—the strenuous snow shoveling they require, not to mention the cold—made us seek out warmer weather during winter months. Every December we pack the car and head south. We always breathe a sigh of relief as the temperature rises the farther we drive. Of course, Hobie and Gracie join us on the journey to Florida.

From our many day trips, these dogs are no strangers to car rides. Yet when we go on our biannual road trip, they recognize the difference.

On a ride to the park, Hobie paces from window to window in the backseat of the car, jumping with excitement in anticipation of our destination. He even knows when we turn the corner to our favorite park and starts to whine with excitement. Everything changes when we pack for our long, two-to-three-day trips. Before departure, Hobie and Gracie jump in the car and get settled for a long winter’s night. While riding, they almost become trancelike, as if they know this is the big one.

Of course, the trip is always preceded by packing the van. Hobie, being a herding dog, is astute as he follows us from house to car while we bring the gear for a long trip. Herding dogs like to work, to keep everything in order, and to make sure everyone—whether sheep, cattle, or people—is accounted for. When we are going to drive for days, the dogs travel like royalty. I take special measures to pack quilts, dog beds, and pillows for their comfort. I pack special bones to relieve their boredom with a chew fest. I accommodate their every need.

I believe our dogs sense that something special is about to happen. They observe the care we take and the love that goes into this packing extravaganza. I am sure they pick up on our excitement and anxiousness as we prepare mentally for the long drive. Part of our preparation is to give the journey over to Spirit to guide us in the best possible way. We say the sacred words that close spiritual exercises we practice from the teachings of Eckankar: “May the blessings be.” This is another way of saying, “Thy will be done.”

Our Four-Legged Travel Guide

From our previous trips together, the dogs know our routines. When we make pit stops, I use the rest stop first while Tony gasses up the vehicle. Then he pulls to the side of the rest-stop parking area, and I take the dogs to a field to do their duty. In about five minutes, we are on the road again. But at each stop, Hobie won’t get in the car until the whole family is accounted for. You could say that he is our travel guide, always counting heads and keeping us on track.

Hobie often stands behind the car’s driver. For moral support, he gives Tony or me a little lick behind the ears. Sometimes he stands on the car’s middle console to be sure we have not altered from his approved navigational plan. Beyond Hobie’s herding instincts, I think that spiritually he knows there is a course we should be taking. After he is satisfied that all is well, and the feeling of the car and of his people are right, he curls up on his backseat pillow for a while. There, he rests until sensing the need to comfort his humans again.

His invisible bond with us is strong and comes from the mutual trust and respect we share. Hobie’s confidence also helps Gracie through her fears of the unknown and gives her a safe place to let down her guard. In turn, this teaches her how to “Let go and let God.” A beneficial spiritual lesson in detachment for all of us.

Our travels would not be complete without this little sprite. Hobie makes our lives complete. His motto seems to be, “It’s all about the love.”

—Photos by Donna Lupinacci

Donna’s story about animals in her life is in two parts:

Part 1: “Our Minifarm Family” by Donna Lupinacci (posted November 13, 2018)

Part 2: “It’s All about the Love,” by Donna Lupinacci (posted January 8, 2019)