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January 16, 2014 | 12:00 a.m. CST
If there’d been a Mr. Congeniality award in school, he would have won first place. Spontaneous and rambunctious, he distracted classmates with his silly heart.
But his sense of responsibility caught up by the time he graduated. Some say that after guarding his family’s tent all night as they slept, he was worthy of the Eagle Scout honor.
His name was Reilly Feeney. And he was a 95-pound golden retriever.
This week marks my first as Editor of Vox, and to start the year, the magazine features a photo essay about the understood connection between human and canine.The images capture an unconditional bond, an agreement to love, even when someone shreds toilet paper and spreads it all over the carpet. Or yells because of a crappy day at work.
In the essay, we let the owners speak for themselves. Ivy Walker’s pup, Watson, helps ease her anxiety. A former Vox editor didn’t find Karenin — the dog started following him wherever he went.
We were always “dog people” in my family, too. I was 3 when my family drove out to the farm to get Reilly. I remember his yellow puppy fuzz, ears flopping against the minivan’s red cushions. We chose him from the rest because of his peaceful demeanor — the other pups jumped and climbed as he lay there snugly. Of course, this was before he chewed nearly all the shoes in the house.
He died in 2005, but family stories often circle back to our dogs. When my great aunt Carolyn wandered toward the street at age 2, Charcoal the Doberman stopped her from crossing by wrapping his body around her. Then there’s Foxy, the red-haired Chihuahua Pomeranian who resides in comfort back in Iowa, my home state, always searching for the best pile of dirty clothes to rest his small paws.
And when he jumps into the passenger’s seat of my car as I pack it full, it breaks my heart a little bit every time I have to leave.