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Burned out by politics? Winston and his kind can help

Here's a surefire way to direct your attention away from the miserable national political scene — get a puppy!

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So disappointed have we become over this year's presidential choices, that my wife and I have devised a way to forget as much as possible the national political condition and fuss over or laugh at something definitely nonpolitical. It's a great substitute for watching news programs that are often depressing. A new English Cream Golden Retriever puppy (from Nine Mile Falls) distracts us from national politics and all the developments that go with them. Young pets, always growing and exploring, are something to laugh at, offering a healthy perspective and approach to one's life.

Winston was born on June 2, the offspring of a Polish mother and a Canadian father. A white-coated people magnet, Winston always draws a crowd. Young and old want to pet him, hold him and coo over him. And he eats it all up, "performing" on cue — tail wagging like a windshield wiper as he accepts his admirers' praise and adulation. Whether chewing or chasing a toy, digging for critters or carefully testing the water, this dog is a people-pleaser. Winston has found a loving home and discovered a great life consisting of sleeping about 17 hours per day, eating, drinking water, finding the spacious woods of our Priest Lake lot attractive as a convenient bathroom, snoozing under a beach chair or on the back porch, riding a paddleboard, exploring new sights and sounds as a means of satisfaction and growth, or bounding aggressively after an empty plastic milk jug. After all, it's a dog's life, isn't it?

Favorite pets have a way of distracting us from everyday life. They provide us with an outlet for love and care, always acting as a friend that doesn't talk back. They're selflessly affectionate. One prominent Spokane lawyer told me his older Great Dane — the largest breed of dog — regularly snuggles up in the attorney's lap while they watch TV, even crowding his wife out.

When a puppy or other familiar pet is around, the pet draws our attention — away from TV news or headlines, political developments or other distractions that make us angry or otherwise frustrated. Television's Dr. Oz and other medical experts certify that pet owners live longer, have less stress and are happier than their counterparts without pets. Pets warm our hearts, but also protect them by lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and triglyceride levels.

Pets are a political antidote, too. It's difficult to ruminate — indeed fume — over Hillary's dishonesty, or Donald's egotism, while watching a new puppy or other pet be silly, or roll around chasing a toy. They're pleasant distractions from everyday cares.

Here's a test: Find a new puppy, then fixate on the puppy's antics or be responsible for the puppy's care for awhile. Then try to simultaneously concentrate on work or political concerns. Here's betting you can't do so for any extended time because your attention will be on the pet, either laughing at its antics or admiring the freedom it exhibits — freedom and carefree activity that we wish we had.

Wouldn't it be great if we held the same respect for our politicians that we hold for our pets?

Most pet owners I know only want to love their pets. The pet is a beloved and treasured family member. Actor Robert Wagner once said, "A dog will teach you unconditional love. If you have that in your life, things won't be too bad."

As a Golden Retriever owner in 1994, Chestnut appeared in one of my political TV ads. After winning the election, a lady I didn't know approached me at the Spokane airport, exclaiming, "I've never met you, but I voted for you, thinking that if you had a Golden Retriever that winsome, you must not be a bad guy."

That was clearly an instance where the dog, not the candidate, earned the vote — illustrating the power that pets bestow upon owners. Chestnut (now deceased) became a television star that year, helping his owner become an elected official. Likewise, Winston is a companion dog, not a hunter or breeder. Our two adult children, encouraging their parents to invest in a new puppy, love Winston as their own. Both children are now unconditionally attached to him, understanding why their parents have turned away from the national political scene and toward the distraction that we call Winston.

As they used to say around D.C.: If you want a true friend in politics, get a dog! ♦

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