My mom surprised me with my first pet dog when I was five years old. She was a little fluffy white ball of fur and energy named Charlie and I loved her immediately. I spent every spare moment with her and she was patient and loving while I dressed her in my doll’s clothes and pushed her around the house in my baby carriage. She was spunky and she believed she could fly, jumping around and over everything and even jumping from a second story window once. She was my best friend for five solid years until the cancer creeped in and took her from us. Thirty years later I remember Charlie so fondly and I still have the name tag from her collar in my jewelry box. Having Charlie in my life as a child solidified for me that a pet dog is the best gift that any of us can give to our children, and I wanted to make sure that my daughter, Ciara had the same experience growing up.
We had labs and chihuahuas throughout her childhood and she adores them all, even as she’s grown up, gotten married and moved out of state. Our chocolate lab, Sasha grew up with Ciara and they are the very best of friends. Sasha came home when Ciara was 15, was named by her and when Ciara tried to leave for college Sasha refused to get out of her car and let her go. Any time Ciara comes home to visit, the first thing she does is drop to her knees and hug Sasha as tight as she can then proceed to sleep next to her the entire time she is home. My heart is happy knowing she has the same kind of bond with her dogs that I had with mine growing up. It’s a unique relationship that all dog lovers understand completely.
Anyone who’s ever had a canine family member knows firsthand the sheer, unadulterated joy that a dog feels when their people return home. Whether you’ve been gone for an hour or a week, your dog greets you as if you’re the most exciting and revered celebrity in the world, jumping and barking and crying and trying to get as close to you as possible. They ask no questions, they hold no grudges. They’re simply overjoyed to be back in your presence and they stick as close to you as possible for long periods of time upon your return.
A dog never decides that they’d prefer a different owner or abandons you. Once dogs find their people, that’s it. Dogs love their people without condition, never asking for anything other than love in return. Talk to your dog and they’ll cock their head and start wagging their tail. Reach out to pet them and they’ll lean into you and roll over on their back, completely prone and trusting. Have a bad day that ends with you in tears and your dog will sense your distress and work hard to make sure you know just how important and loved you are by them.
Dogs don’t compare their lives to the dogs next door or dream of a more glamorous life like the dogs they see on TV. They are genuinely thrilled each time that you offer them a treat, take them outside to play ball or take them for a car ride. Every single time you play with your dog, pet your dog and tell them what a good boy/girl they are, they light up like it’s the best moment of their entire life. They suffer in silence as you talk to them in silly baby voices, as your children learn to play gently with them, as you go on about your life without them much of the time. They never get upset and ignore you or hold it against you, they just wait patiently until you direct your attention back to them and then shower you with love and adoration when you do.
A dog will never leave your side, never wake up one day and stop loving you. A dog won’t judge your decisions, won’t criticize or make fun of you. As far as they’re concerned, you are the most beautiful, exciting, wonderful person that ever lived and they can’t possibly imagine their life without you. You mean everything to them and there’s nowhere else they’d rather be, no one else they’d rather be with.
Dogs are truly the most amazing creatures and every family is lucky beyond measure to share their lives with them. The loyalty, contentment and unconditional love that they give to us so willingly is a gift and their example is something we should all strive to follow. Just imagine a world where we treated each other with even a fraction of the pure love that our dogs bless us with.
This article first appeared in the October/November 2019 issue of Families First Monthly magazine, www.familiesfirstmonthly.com.
Copyright 2019, all rights reserved. All images taken by me unless otherwise stated.