Courier-Post columnist Danny Henley offers a reason for raising the flag of joy.


The debate over which is the more valued pet, a cat or dog, will likely percolate until the end of time.
A disparity over the punishment for stealing a canine and feline was a source of discussion in the state of Virginia a couple of years ago. The theft of a dog was considered a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. In contrast, stealing someone’s cat was only a misdemeanor. The penalty for that crime could earn the thief at most only a year as a guest of the state’s penal system.
Sure to have been a point of debate is the contention that while one can “own” a dog, a cat is its own master and is not owned by anyone.
I have no intention of wading into the middle of a cat versus dog debate in this space. The feelings stirred when discussing the attributes of pets is comparable to the fiery passions generated when weighing the advantages of political parties.
While I will admit that I have a partiality for dogs, my favor is by no means absolute. I am equally annoyed whether it’s a stray cat or dog that has left a night deposit on my property. It also makes no difference whether it’s a barking dog or a yowling cat that wakes me at 3 in the morning, I will still be furious.
As of this date we have neither cats or dogs in residence at the Henley home. That fact is not likely to change in the foreseeable future since I am prone to sneezing fits when I’m around cats and my wife, Nancy, is allergic to felines and canines alike.
Although we do not own a dog, I still periodically have the opportunity to interact with dogs. Our next door neighbors have multiple dogs, which is ideal for someone like me who doesn’t want the responsibility of caring for and cleaning up after a dog, but who enjoys a canine’s tail-wagging enthusiasm.
Not surprising, the personality of each of the neighbor’s dogs is as distinctive as the markings on its coat. Just as some are more inclined to bark than others, their reaction varies to seeing the “guy next door,” whom they have known since they were fuzzy pups.
Probably my favorite of the pack is a male dubbed RJ. While RJ’s sisters typically greet me warmly, I gravitate to RJ because of the unabashed exuberance he displays when he spots me. His low bark suddenly takes on a  puppy-like “yip yip” quality. The twisting and turning RJ does as he stands at the fence all but cries out “I’m so glad to see you! Please come pet me!” At least that’s what I interpret his gyrations as meaning.
Regardless of how much of a hurry I might be in, I seem to always find myself carving out at least a few moments to pat and say a few kind words to RJ.
I’m not quite sure what I’ve done generate such a joyous outburst. I do know my spirits are always bolstered by the vivacious reaction of this dog, whose response is not inhibited by the self-awareness that frequently causes happy humans to curb their response out of concern for who might be watching.
Only on rare occasions do people let their guard down and allow a truly joyous reaction occur that is comparable to my four-legged friend’s. It might happen after prevailing in a hard-fought sporting event. You could see it when a loved one is welcomed home after serving a tour of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan. It also can be seen exhibited by small children on Christmas morning.
For those of the Christian faith, Christmas should be a time of joy because of what it represents. But unfortunately, for a wide assortment of reasons, the joy of Christmas now eludes most adults.
Joy has been described as the flag that flies over the castle of our hearts announcing that the king is in residence today. I’d like to suggest that because a King was born, the flag of joy should always be flying in our heart.
Merry Christmas.