I lived in Mali West Africa for two years and we did not have running water, toilets, electricity, and, many days, too much food at our market. But we had dogs.

My boy, don’t get too excited, every foreigner had a servant, had his own dog. He was a Saluki. Among the world’s oldest breeds, the slim but rugged Saluki was the hunting hound of kings for thousands of years. Salukis are swift and agile sprinters who love a good chase. They make gentle, dignified, and independent but loyal pets.

It seemed everywhere we went there were dogs. And while these were technically strays, for the most part, they were more like village dogs. The dogs were sort of pets for the entire village. Even when there was not enough food to keep everyone full the dogs ate. Kids raced the dogs, the dogs always won, and played in the red, dusty streets. When there was water everyone drank, including the dogs.

The first television show I watched when I got back to America was this new and very odd show called Saturday Night Live. I missed the first season but I became totally captivated by season two and quickly fell in love with Gilda Radner and all of her characters.

I saw a documentary on her on a flight this summer and I learned all sorts of information I never knew about her. I did know that she died far too young, was a comedic genius, married Willy Wonka aka Gene Wilder, and loved dogs.

I never got the whole dog thing because I had not yet met my dog. It wasn’t until I fell in love with Coconut that the honesty of this quote from Gilda made sense.

“I think dogs are the most amazing creatures, they give unconditional love. For me, they are the role model for being alive.”

I wish I had been wiser back then. I also wish I weighed the same as I did back then. I wish I would have played with the dogs and spent time reading with one by my side.

Gilda was right. We all need to be kind and loyal and friendly and fun and loving. Like a dog.