My very favoritest (yes, I know that’s not a word) T-shirt is thread bare, stretched and misshapen. It used to be a soft, buttery yellow color but is now grayish from all the washing it has endured.


It is years old, and I know exactly when and where I bought it. Special things like that never leave your mind (or heart). It says “Life is short. Play with your dog.”


William Wordsworth said it a little more scholarly in 1806 when he wrote, “The world is too much with us; late and soon, getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.” I think these are words of wisdom!


My father died from lymphoma 27 years ago my senior year in veterinary college. Thus, began my passion for fighting cancer, both in humans and pets (where it is the number one cause of death).


My mother, at 92 years of age, has recently started a new life by moving to Aiken. All of us kids spent weeks planning the move and settling her in at wonderful Cumberland Hills.


I had the most electric moment during all of this when I realized that my brother is past the age of when our dad died.


In the blink of an eye and a snap of the fingers, we have all marched forward in years.


All of us worry about age, taking care of each other and planning for the future. It’s hard.


And that is why I love this T-shirt. I start to worry and stress – then solve it all by procrastinating and getting up to play with my wonder dog, Dora.


We humans need to play more with our dogs (cats too!). It benefits both of us.


“Pet owners, on average, have better health and better social relationships than nonpet owners, especially when they have a higher-quality relationship with their pets,” said Dr. Allen R. McConnell, professor of Psychology at Miami University.


It saddens me when I talk with a client, and they tell me their dog is an outdoor dog (why have one?).


It frustrates me when I try to unravel bad behavior in a dog and come to the realization that the dog just doesn’t KNOW better.


He has no friendship or relationship with his humans.


Dogs are amazing creatures. They are anything but common animals. Lovable and dependable, canines have been assisting their human pals for hundreds of years – from pulling dogsleds to helping the blind and physically impaired get through the day safely.


They are now being trained to detect the unique odor of bladder and prostate cancer cells in urine, plunges in blood sugar levels of diabetics.


They sense impending seizures and subtle changes in body chemistry of emotional disorders (autism, schizophrenia and PTSD) and so much more. We lay waste their powers by not spending adequate time teaching and playing with them.


You can strengthen your relationship with your best friend in a number of ways, from going on regular walks or hikes to learning and competing in dog sports – even practicing tricks and playing with toys for a few minutes each day.


A good dog needs good manners (sit, down, come, stay and off are good starters) and the ability to walk on a leash.


Once your dog has a little experience under his collar, work toward his ability to be polite in public places.


All of the things he needs to know to be a civilized member of society are encompassed in the Canine Good Citizen test (offered by the good folks at Jae-Mar-S Academy of Dog Obedience in Augusta).


Then the real fun begins if you want to venture forth into more serious training of obedience or the fabulous games and sports of agility, caniteering, dock jumping, flyball, hare coursing (and the list keeps expanding).


My friend and dog trainer extraordinaire, Nancy Racki, has trained her four yellow Labs to amazing heights in obedience, rally and agility. Her Marnie and Jiggs are well-mannered, smart, fun and a joy to be around.


I’m trying to get her to teach Dora the simple act of coming when called. It’s taking a village to get her trained, but I no longer stress about it.


Which reminds me, it’s time to put on my T-shirt and go play with her.


It’s time for you to do the same with your best friend, too.


Dr. Holly Woltz (Doc Holly), Chief of Staff at Veterinary Services, has practiced veterinary medicine for 26 years and specializes in senior care. A former teacher and writer, she enjoys talking and writing about the human-companion animal bond and its importance. Visit her at www.aikenpetvet.com.