Dogs remind us to be hooman

Viking Voices guest submission: Missy Hannen, Portland State student and Portland State Vanguard Copy Chief

It began with a game: Dogspotting. You spot a dog, you snap a photo, you post it. There are rules though: No photos of dogs you know, no photos where you know you’ll see dogs (dog parks, pet stores, etc.), no service dogs, no selfies or memes or edited photos. It’s strict, but it’s great amusement, evident by the over 768,000 members. I found the rules to be a bit much at times, and a lot of others did too, which is how Dogspotting Society came to be.

It’s a society of dog lovers 138,000 members strong. The rules are different: No disrespecting others, no solicitation, no service dogs unless it’s yours, and always BEEo, meaning be excellent to each other, the last of which has turned into a life motto for many.

Doggo lingo has developed in these Facebook groups: friends has become frens, humans are hoomans, German Shepherds are wee woos (This one by vote!), pit bulls are pibbles. A bit of tongue out is a blep, and even more tongue out is a mlem. A ton of other linguistically fascinating things have occurred, but I’ll let you read NPR’s great article to learn more.

So you can post your own dogs, and some dogs have achieved celebrity status. Long bois and the house hippos, for example, is a pack of two great danes and three pibbles. The hoomans have a heart-wrenching story of how they each came through a tumultuous past with addiction and recovery, and finally love and marriage and the joining of the dogs into one big family.

The Great Pipparina is another such celebrity for a simple yet amazing reason: She balances things on her head. It sounds easy; it’s not. Have you ever gotten a dog to balance three balls on its head? How about several candy-sized boxes? And to do so with elegance and grace? Didn’t think so.

There are many DSS celebs, but the one who has me crying today is Kaylee. A 9-year-old kid asked her mother for a dog no one wanted, hating the idea that it would die in a shelter. They met Kaylee, who was soon diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. Her prognosis was two months. The family created a bucket list for her and vowed to give her the best two months of her 11-year-old life, and wouldn’t you know it, she made it seven months.

She recently began showing aggressive behavior, and the vet said it was due to either pain or the cancer affecting the brain and causing the change. Either way, it’s time to let her go, and they planned for today, MLK day. Today Kaylee had the best day of her life, beginning with country-fried steak, eggs and potatoes for breakfast, and later, a puppuccino and cheese buffet. She will go in peace surrounded by the family that’s made her their world.

I’m crying as I write this, as I, along with thousands of others, have followed Kaylee’s story from day one. We’ve watched her go on adventures, sometimes in pearls and a dress, and blossom into the happiest dog. We’ve shared in her heartaches, and we’ve laughed at her grumpiness. We’ve watched a spirit endure and surpass a death sentence.

Let’s be real now: The world we live in today is a dumpster fire. Threats of nuclear disaster (my heart is with you, Hawaiians), a president showing us the darkest side of our country on a global stage, human rights violations left and right. There are disasters everywhere, and we’re surrounded by media telling us everything all the time.

I’m scared of being on the MAX, of walking down streets in broad daylight with catcalls and the opioid crisis staring me in the face, of what will happen to my biracial niece and nephew when they enter high school. We’re all scared.

In this harsh reality, stories of light, hope and miracles are things we cling to. We want to have faith in the world. We want to have hope for things to be beautiful, to be better. Kaylee’s story has given thousands of people that hope and faith, and now she’s leaving us, and it’s devastating.

Kaylee would want us to keep the faith, to embrace the hope, to continue to be better to ourselves and each other. Her hooman family wants it, too, to be sure. So I will grieve for the loss and take my time, as I don’t do well with death. But I will learn from this, and you should too.

Thank you to Kaylee’s family from the bottom of all our hearts for bringing this light into our lives. Thank you to the family of DSS for posting your dogs, your questions, your advice, your heartaches and your triumphs. The pure, unconditional love that dogs and the humans who love them provide is a constant reminder that we aren’t alone in suffering, and we have a duty to others to be our best selves with no apologies and help where we can.

So pick yourself up, and foster that dog. Run that mile or start learning that new language. It can be scary out there, and even just getting out of bed is an achievement. But most of all, be excellent to each other, and love everyone and everything you see no matter what because that’s what Kaylee’s reminded me to do.

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