More thoughts about dogs.

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I am sure this will come as no surprise to anyone, but, I spend a lot of time thinking about dogs. Often, my thoughts turn to why so many of us love them…I usually come up with lots of reason, but, none really fully captures “it”. The reasons I come up with are things like loyalty, companionship, unconditional love, trust and devotion. We get all those things from our dogs…if we treat them right. But, while those are good reasons, I think there is a lot more to it. Looking at my own dogs, I think of the sacrifices Paul & I make daily on their behalf: we get way less than our fair share of bed and blanket, we get up in the middle of the night to let Old Man Rocco out, we experiment with different types of food to find something he likes, and most recently, let Rocco make the decision about whether or not we brought another foster dog home. He decided “definitely not”, and while we were disappointed, we agree that he deserves to be happy and comfortable in his old age. Forcing him to make new friends is not fair. Savannah is pretty easy…age hasn’t caught up with her yet, she will eat whatever you put in front of her and likes every dog she meets. Rocco, on the other hand, is what I would call prickly. But, his prickliness and her laid- back personality is what reminds me that just like people, each dog is an individual. And, then my thoughts turn to how many dogs don’t get the chance to show people who they are and what they are capable of. And, that is why I make the trek as often as possible from New Hope, Pa. to Philadelphia to meet and get to know those dogs..the ones who never knew a bed, ate from garbage pails and maybe somehow survived living their whole lives outdoors in extreme weather or in dark basements. Or maybe they lived with people who didn’t really consider them at all, they were “just a dog” and they were just there, until some circumstance caused the person to decide that this other life that lived in their house was “too much responsibility” or “didn’t live up to my expectations”.
I guess at this point I shouldn’t be so surprised at just how shitty people can be to animals, but, every time I read a new story, I am as appalled, shocked and devastated as I was by the first. And, it does devastate me. I think of our Angie, skinny, scared, still a puppy and tied up and left somewhere to fend for herself. I think of all the dogs I see in the shelter who shake with fear, or the ones who continue to look hopeful, despite having no meat on their bones or are covered with wounds, or are losing hair from mange or stress…..and I think WHY??? I want to cry in sadness and scream in rage. Instead, I open the door to the kennel, put the leash around their neck and take them outside for some fresh air, some loving and a chance to do their business someplace other than where they sleep and eat. I save the sadness and the rage for when I walk out the door. I think about their reliance on us to provide them the things they need, and how some people simply ignore that. I will never understand that. And, I hope my rage and my sadness never go away, because they are a clear counterpoint to the joy and elation I feel when one of those dogs chases a ball and brings it back, or sits on command. Without the negative emotions, the positive ones wouldn’t be nearly as powerful. I feel deep sadness when a dog I have met is euthanized, or even if I haven’t met the dog, but, know one of my shelter friends really cared about the dog, as well as, wanting to sing and dance when one gets adopted.
So, that brings me back to my original question about why we love dogs. For me, I think it is sort of a selfish altruism. I do all of these things because I care about the welfare of these animals, whether they are my own or not. My caring about them provides my soul with something that is crucial to my own well-being: knowing that I did what I could. I may not always enjoy getting up in the middle of the night to let Rocco out (and truthfully, Paul does it more often than I do), but, I do, because he needs me to. I would not be living up to my job as his guardian if I did not. I may not enjoy all the dogs I take out at the shelter, but, I never blame the dog. I think of all the ways humans have failed them that led them to where they are and why they behave the way they do (ie, smearing poop all over the kennel and themselves) and approach with compassion and a heart that is full of hope for them anyway. I slip the leash around their neck and hope they don’t get poop all over me, too. I will continue to do this as long as there is a need and I don’t expect the need to go away soon. Though dogs have been domestic companions for thousands of years, we still have a lot to learn from them. My greatest hope is that more people start to listen to them. Humans made dogs into what they are: we owe them far more patience and compassion than they are often given.

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2 responses »

  1. Wow! Very deep, love the emotion here & this is how we should all think about or dogs & other dogs. I share with you the feelings.

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