What rhymes with log, fog, bog, smog and blog?  Dog? Not if you live in the state of New Jersey!

As a substitute teacher, I love to teach Literacy.  More often than not, that entails having students make new words by changing the first letter(s) of a word to make a new one.  Recently, I was teaching a First Grade class to make words that contained “og.”  All was fine until we got to the word, “dog.” 

“Mrs. K,” said a boy.  “Dawg” doesn’t rhyme with fog.”  We all read the words out loud, but when we got to dog, something was amiss. I explained that in most regions of the United States, it was pronounced as D-ah-g.  But there was no denying, that in most cases, a dog is a “dawg” in Jersey.

I recall as a visiting teenager in Boulder, Colorado, the look I got when I answered  classmates questions about where I lived.  “North Brawdway,” I would answer.  They either laughed, or looked confused, not knowing I was trying to pronounce “Bra-dway.”

My niece, 8 year old, Olivia, is spending a few days visiting her Aunt Manette and Uncle David in Hackensack.  Livie, as we call her moved to upstate New York several years ago, so I am not sure which version of dog she is using now.  But poor Liv battled a fear of them in her early years.  Just the sight of Hooper lopping towards her for a kiss sent her screaming, climbing up on kitchen counters, curling up on top of sofas in sheer terror.  Hooper, who was used to warm welcomes would just cock her head, and look at me puzzled.  This went on for years and usually required Hooper to be sequestered out of sight for hours.  It was a challenge for all.

Thankfully, Livie overcame her fear.  For several months, her family served as temporary caretakers for Sophie, a sweet Border collie mix.  Soon, she began to warm up to Hooper and now, she calls Hooper her best cousin, giving the greatful dog hugs and kisses.

Will Judy, founder of National Dog Week,  believed that dogs had a great deal to teach kids.  Judy, who had been trained as a minister once wrote, “The dog is a daily, living sermon, without offense, without preaching.  He teaches his young overlords out of a book of life-his own life.”

But, it is important not to force any relationship. With Livie, we used patience, tolerance, and required good behavior, especially when in my niece’s presence.

On-line, we read about all the fun and fancy ways to observe National Dog Week, but for Will Judy, the week was about so much more.  At its crux, was his belief that humans still really didn’t get how much our dogs can offer us if we only would let them.  It urged that caring dog “owners” take the time to nurture their special bonds with their best four-legged friends. 

Enlightenment begins with our young, and they are the ones who will carry the torch for the National Dog Weeks of the future. 

By the way, in 2006, the state of NJ, officially recognized NDW as something to be observed the last full week of September each year.  But, something tells me, like Scooby-Doo, we still have a lot of work to do, now!

Mark your calendars now to remember National “Dawg” Week this year!