Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dog Love

Must Love Dogs part 2: Dog Love

Dog Love is one of the purest loves that we are lucky enough to be able to experience in life.It springs from the intricate bond and special relationship’s that we share with our canine companions.Dog love is like a unique brand of magic; like all love, it is hard to describe with mere words, but can only be expressed through strong feelings of passion and devotion. Feelings that can only be shared by beings who have a deep, intimate relationship with one another. And the relationships that people have with their pets are usually more intimate than any relationship that they have with other humans. There is just so much more freedom and trust in a relationship with an animal; people have often expressed how much freer they are to be themselves, without the fear of being judged when they are alone with their pets. There are no pressures there, or contingencies on that love. Their pets are there for their people through thick and thin, through sickness and health, and for richer or poorer. Because of this “unconditional love”, people feel that it is a more guaranteed love, a safer love; especially in a country with a divorce rate of about 50%. Unlike people, dogs will not cheat on you, feel differently about you because your weight or looks have changed, or leave you because your status or income has lowered. Dogs would stay with you no matter what. They would live under the bridge with you, in a card-board box, eating out of trash cans if we asked them to; and they would never utter a single complaint about having to be asked to do so. Sure, just like our relationships with people, our relationships with our dogs can be complex, dramatic, and emotionally straining at times, but it is never because they want to cause you pain. They do not wake up in the morning with a plan on how to get back at you for a previous grievance. They do not smile at you while you feed them breakfast, masking thoughts of manipulation breeding in their furry heads. They are completely honest beings, and if there is something going on that is straining your relationship, it is usually due to a breakdown in communication some where. It is not because they are trying to spite you, or ruin your day. They have no ulterior motives. They are who they are, and this is the main reason why their love is so special. Because people can be sure that the love is true, that it is genuine. You can be sure that your dog is not just trying to get your money, or get into your pants.
I do not want to spend this whole entry outlining every single thing that makes Dog Love so special and unique. If you’d like to read one of the best pieces out there bringing all of the reasons we love dogs to light in a really inspiring way, I urge you to check out “Pack of Two” by Carolyn Knapp. As I said in Part 1, this is probably my favorite book of all time. It is such a nice, and easy read; it doesn’t get dry or technical. It has a perfect balance between information and personal tales, woven together in such a way that it makes the reader not want to put the book down. But, I think that there are a few reasons that can always be brought up in this discussion, and a few more reasons why Dog Love is so great that were not mentioned in the book.
The first reason, is of course the one already mentioned: “Unconditional Love”. Now, I both agree, and disagree with this theory. I think that the unconditional part of Dog Love has to be earned. Dogs aren’t just BORN with the idea that they have to live to serve humans, or to grovel unnecessarily at our feet. Dogs are perfectly capable of surviving on their own, without the assistance of people. (Just look at all of the strays in this country, or all over the world for that matter.) I mean, sure, when dogs are being selectively bred by people, and there are generations upon generations of tame and domestic dogs going to new homes every day, of course they are going to be OK with people. But there it is. Just because they are going to be tolerant of people, doesn’t mean that they are going to LOVE them. The love comes when those new dog owners take the time to get to know, train, socialize and care for that new dog. It’s when that magic bond forms that we get the Love. And other people will start to take notice of that special relationship that connects these two beings of different species too. And the building of this loving bond brings me to the next point of the Dog Love story:The intimate bond. As I mentioned in the beginning of this piece, most people have a more intimate bond with their pets (namely dogs) than they do with any other human that they have in their life. And I say mostly dogs, because cats usually don’t care enough to follow us from room to room as we go about our daily business, and animals like horses obviously aren’t in close enough quarters with us to get the chance to. (I don’t know anyone who allows their horse in their home, or lives out in their barn with their horse!) But dogs…our dogs tend to be with us EVERYWHERE. I can really only speak for myself (although I know many dog owners who are in the same boat) when I say that my dogs share my bed. They also insist on following me everywhere, including into the bathroom, when they are able. (Not out of separation anxiety, but just as a need to be close; they are herding dogs after all!) Some people wont be that open even with their spouses. I’ve heard of people who wont let their significant others ever even see them without makeup, but they’ll allow their dog to. I know I wouldn’t DARE to sing in front of any human being but I will sing at the top of my lungs when its just me and my girls. There is just such a sense of comfort being with your dogs; knowing that you can act like a raving lunatic who’s free from the institution on a day-pass, and they will never tell. They wont get on the family hot-line and blab about how awful you sing, and wont tell the neighbors on the other side of the fence what you look like naked. Sure, we will never be able to tell what they’re REALLY thinking when we do all of the odd stuff that we humans do, but we can be sure that their lips are sealed. And sometimes its just really nice to have a friend who keeps secrets so well. This also, brings me to my next point:Dogs are the BEST listeners. It’s true, they are. They will not only keep the things you say completely confidential (which, lets face it, we cant always be sure that our human friends are doing…) but they will also never judge what you say, or the feelings that you are expressing. On the contrary, as they will always be silent listeners, they really allow you to think and analyze what it is that you are discussing with them. They allow for a great deal of introspection, and really let you think hard about the task or issue at hand, without being critical of your solution. One of my favorite quotes comes from one of my favorite shows. In the episode, the main character is trying to figure out what to do about a particularly difficult problem; one that is causing him terrible moral anguish. The characters pet comes to his human friend, puts his paws up on the sitting persons knee, and makes indistinguishable chirruping noises. The main character suddenly comes up with a solution and says to his companion: “I know you can’t talk. Pretending you can just helps me think.” His pet makes more chirruping noises. The main character replies “I’m going to pretend that I didn’t pretend to hear that.” I love this quote because it highlights why our animals can be such great therapists. They just sit, and “listen”. Even though our species language barrier filters out most of what we are saying to them, the fact is that they always LOOK like what we are saying is more important than anything else going on in the world. They just look at you with those big eyes, cock their heads, swivel their ears, and give you their undivided attention. Sure, they’re probably just waiting for key phrases that actually mean something to them (for my girls its “food”, “hungry”, “toy”, “ride” and “doggy store”) but seeing how attentive they are, when so many of our human counterparts just tune us out, is a huge confidence and morale boost. Someone cares enough to listen. And when we come up with a solution, or resolution, they are totally on board. No questions asked.
So, I think those are some of the main reasons why pets (and again, dogs in particular) are such loving companions. Especially in today’s world where the human race is becoming more and more reliant on technology, and therefore becoming more and more distant and separated. And of course, there are so many other benefits as well: dogs allow us to keep active, and therefore healthy; they introduce us to things that we may not have done before, and therefore they bring new people into our lives; and they give us something to always take care of. Even when parents leave us to live our own lives, and children grow up and move away. They are of course, an enormous responsibility, and just like with any brand of love, Dog Love does require time and effort; blood, sweat and tears. But nurtured and encouraged, the benefits are worth it.
I want to end this discussion of Dog Love with, I think, the most important point of all. I think that this reason, right here, is the number one main reason why we love dogs (and all of our pets) so much. As I mentioned before, Dog Love is thought to be unconditional. Love between people and animals is one of the purest and truest Love’s there is. And I think this is why:
I hear this quote mentioned at weddings, on T.V. and in books all the time. But when you think of it, and I mean really take some time to process what exactly is being said, I’m not sure that this is able to be applied to any relationships that people have with each other. Granted, I don’t think that it is supposed to be taken literally either. Rather, I think it is an ideal that any people in any kind of love should strive for. This is what loving someone should be about. But I find that it really and truly can be applied to our love for our animals. Only they, being truly honest beings, cannot put any negative attachments on their love. Dog Love is the love being mentioned in God’s words:
“Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous, love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offense, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes. Love does not come to an end.”
So enjoy your dog love. Bask in it. Let it wash over you everyday that you are blessed to have your canine companions here with you. And know, as God said, Love does not end. And this is true for all love; Dog Love included. So if you have had to say good-bye to a dear friend, or if that time has not yet come, just know that your Dog Love will shine on forever. Those who are gone, live on forever in the hearts of those who remember them, as we are left with their paw-prints on our hearts and their Dog Love in our souls.

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