Foreword

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

Foreword

Sometimes people ask questions like “Do you remember that song, ‘Fishin’ In the Dark’?” You might say, “Oh yeah, I remember where I was the first time I heard that song,” or “I remember singing that into a hairbrush in front of the mirror with my best friend.” Other times someone will start singing an old TV theme song like “Now this is a story all about how . . .” And you chime in, “my life got flipped, turned upside down.” Who can forget Fresh Prince, right? It causes you to walk down memory lane to the place where you instantly relive the experience.

Other things are such a fundamental part of your life that you can’t remember a time without them. It’s that way for me with the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series. It’s also that way for me with dogs. I can’t remember back far enough to know life without either of them. So it was a natural fit when I was asked to be a part of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What? I started thinking about funny things my dogs have done and memories that I have with each of them. Then I looked a little further back, at the bigger picture. It was then that I learned where my lifelong love for dogs started and where my passion for them was rooted. I learned a little bit about myself that I hadn’t realized until now.

My first pet was around before I was born. He was a yellow Lab named Cooter Brown. My parents were a little worried about how he was going to accept a new baby in the house. Until my birth in 1983, he was their “baby.” That proved to be an unnecessary concern. The story goes that when I first arrived home he walked up to me, kissed my face and became my constant companion and guardian. He moved himself from my parents’ bed and took up lodging under my crib, and then later moved into my bed. In my parents’ house is one of my favorite pictures of all time . . . a photo of me, around two years old. I’m outside in overalls, and I’m singing and dancing with Coot. It says everything about how I grew up and who I would become . . . a singing country girl hanging out with a dog. Cooter was my best friend.

I’ve had many, many pets since Cooter passed away when I was six, but I can’t write a foreword for Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What? without thinking about what Cooter Brown did. He alone created the lifelong love that I have for pets and animals in general. He taught me trust and acceptance. He taught me how to care for others and be cared for by others. During our tea parties, while sitting patiently at the little table with a bonnet on his head, he taught me about meaningful conversations and about listening without judging. Our relationship was the textbook definition of unconditional love. He taught me that I never have to be alone because as long as you have a dog, you have a friend. He taught me what it means to depend on something and be depended on. I have carried the things I learned in those first six years, lessons about love, trust, acceptance, and friendship, throughout my life. That’s what the dog did. As a grown woman, I still practice those lessons.

A few years ago I recorded a song called “The House That Built Me.” The first time I heard it I was coming home from the Dallas airport with my husband, Blake. He popped in a CD with some “pitch” songs sent to him by his producer. The third song was “The House That Built Me.” By the end of the first chorus I was in tears. Actually it was more like crying profusely. Before the song was over Blake looked at me and said, “I know this song is a huge hit but I’m not going to record it. This song belongs to you.” Sometimes in life, even when you aren’t looking, something that belongs to you finds you for some reason. “The House That Built Me” turned out to be a signature song for me because it’s a song I relate to and I think we all can relate to. The song hit #1 on the Billboard chart and stayed there for four weeks. It won Song of the Year and proved to be the biggest crowd-pleaser on tour. The song is about losing yourself in the world, getting away from your roots and going back home to find out who you are again. In that song, at the end of the first chorus there is a line that says, “Up those stairs in that little back bedroom is where I did my homework and I learned to play guitar and I bet you didn’t know under that live oak my favorite dog is buried in the yard.” At my childhood home, the “House That Built Me,” there really is an oak tree where my favorite dog is buried, and that dog is Cooter Brown. That house is my “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” And that song is a reflection of what my dog did for me.

My hope for you is that you rediscover something about yourself in the pages of this book. I hope you read something that reminds you of your favorite dog and suddenly realize that the relationship with him or her helped to create the thread of the person you became. I hope that you laugh and that you cry while reading it. Most of all I hope that you remember your “chicken soup for the soul” place and moments and that you discover what the dog did for you.

Don’t forget . . . love a shelter pet.

~Miranda Lambert
May 15, 2014

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