Last week, when I joined nearly two dozen Lee County and Sanford people for the first session of Leadership Sanford, we were asked a simple question about our favorite part of the day.

For a majority of folks, it was that time after work when you return home to be with your family — and your pets. A lot of people in the room mentioned their dogs and cats and how excited they are to see us when we return home.

For me, it’s honestly no different. I’m usually on the phone with my wife when I’m about to pull into the driveway, and I’m letting her know that I’m almost home. Almost every day, she opens the front door, and out bounds a goofy German shepherd who’s been a part of my life for nearly a decade. Sugar runs to my car and doesn’t just wag her tail, her entire hind end wags from excitement. It’s one of those moments I cherish daily.

Why talk about my dog and the dogs of others? Well, it’s National Dog Week next week. That’s right, Sept. 19-25 is the time we celebrate our dogs annually. Don’t worry cat lovers, your time is coming, and by the way, my wife and I have six cats in addition to our dogs.

National Dog Week has been celebrated since 1928 — that’s more than 1,000 years in dog years … and 93 to us. National Dog Week began when Capt. William Judy, a WW I Silver Star veteran and canine advocate, decided that a weeklong celebration was needed to recognize the service and unwavering loyalty of man’s best friend. Capt. Judy also published Dog World magazine.

Many of us don’t need a special week to honor our dogs because we enjoy and spoil them every week of the year. Sugar, my white shepherd, came into my life as a little puppy almost nine years ago. She weighed less than five pounds when she came home. I know it’s not polite to share a girl’s weight, but let’s just say Sugar, or Sugar Bear as she’s know around the house, is also nicknamed “Sugar Barrel.”

What’s so special about having dogs? A lot of psychologists have said they help us in troubled times. Therapy dogs can be useful in many situations including PTSD. My Sugar has been just that through some rough times.

Like many kids, when I was young I wanted a dog. My mom thought it best not to have one — allergies and fur everywhere were the excuses I was given. I whined, begged and cajoled, but alas — no dog materialized in my house as a child.

When I left home in the mid-80s for my first job, it didn’t take long for me to end up with my first dog. I went to work as a staff photographer at a newspaper and on my second day I was sent to the local animal shelter to take photos of the “Dog of the Week.”

Inside the kennel at the local shelter there was a mom with several puppies. After less than a week on the job, I headed home with a fuzzy Jack Russell Terrier mix named Snooky. To say Snooky was an awesome dog was an understatement. She was my constant companion for 17 years. A year after adopting her, another Terrier mix named Heidi came into my life. She was with me until she died of lymphatic cancer at age 12.

Since that day in 1986 when I adopted Snooky, there have been only a few years that I haven’t had a dog around me. There was Jake, the Cocker Spaniel, the Chocolate Labs Sadie and Lillie and then along came Sugar.

When I married my late wife, her longtime dog died not long after we were married. Friends knew that I wanted another pooch around the house. One day, some German shepherd puppies were found abandoned in a grocery store parking lot — the rest is history.

Sugar made her way to my office courtesy of a friend and animal rescuer. She’s been by my side ever since. Sugar Rogers was there when my wife died. She was there when I had my heart attack. Now, she’s with my wife and I here in North Carolina.

Sugar’s life is pretty good as she enters her senior years. She wanders around the yard with a basketball (her favorite toy) in her mouth. She plays with our cats and she guards my wife’s dog, Raven, an elderly Great Dane.

This weekend, when I return home from the Lee Regional Fair and Carolina Indie Fest, Sugar and I are sure to spend some time playing with that old basketball. She’ll also snooze at my feet when my wife, Laurie, and I catch up on some TV binge watching.

So, Happy National Dog Week to all the canines and their owners out there. As a dog owner, or rather, caretaker, I can’t think of a better holiday to celebrate.

Mark Rogers is editor of The Sanford Herald and can be reached by email at mrogers@sanfordherald.com

Mark Rogers is editor of The Sanford Herald and can be reached by email at mrogers@sanfordherald.com

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