Gary Burghoff's childhood dog helped him in acting school

Patch was the pet that kept on giving.

Anybody who's ever spent time with a dog knows how emotionally rich the experience can be. We get attached to those four-legged stinkers. For lots of us, dogs are a part of the family, as important as a sibling or a child. We love our pets because they love us right back.

Sometimes our pets can affect us in unexpected ways. We might not expect it, but many of us learn from having a pet, whether it's lessons of reliability, compassion, or even patience. There's a reason people go through the process of adopting a dog, paying for their food, and sheltering and nurturing an animal who can't speak up to say, "Thank you." It's a beautiful, rewarding relationship; those lucky enough to have had special bonds with a dog are never the same when they're gone.

Gary Burghoff spent his life dedicated to bettering the world around him. While other actors might squander their paychecks on lavish luxuries, Burghoff instead opened a wildlife sanctuary. The former Radar spent not just his money but also his time trying to give back to animals after they changed his life and made it richer.

Long before M*A*S*H, Gary Burghoff had a dog named Patch. According to Burghoff's book The Wonderful Thing About Pets, the dog was his best friend and informed the trajectory of Burghoff's career.

"From Patch, I learned the meaning of unconditional love," Burghoff wrote. "Oddly, it was years later that I fully realized this. I left home at the age of 19 to attend acting school in New York City. At one point, we were asked to do an advanced acting exercise called sense memory.

"The aim of this particular exercise was to lead us into an emotional state designed to bring on tears. I had to imagine something intensely personal and allow myself to get swept up in the grief of it."

Unfortunately for Burghoff, coming to tears wasn't as easy as he'd hoped.

"Well, I tried a couple of things," he wrote. "I imagined my father being paralyzed. I saw myself being diagnosed with cancer. Nothing seemed to work. Then, even though I could hardly bear to entertain the thought, I visualized Patch being hit by a car.

"To say that I became extremely emotional is almost an understatement. Why do you think that is? Well, I'll tell you. Of all the relationships I had growing up, as important and as loving as they may have been, none gave me the completely unconditional love that Patch gave me. And I [love] him."

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1 Comments

Runeshaper 1 month ago
I love my pets so much so I totally get this! They are family and they mean the world to me.
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