Several years ago after our dogs passed, husband and I thought that we were done with pets. We thought that “at last, no more furry encumberments”.
But I was wrong.
My house felt empty. There was a hole. I was ashamed of how much I needed a dog. Ashamed that my family, my friends, my job, my hobbies, my faith couldn’t fill that dog shaped spot. Ashamed that I was so needy. I’m not the only one who feels that way. There’s a reason that those awful ASPCA TV solicitations are mostly filled with abused dogs instead of cats or bunnies. Dogs and man have a link. There has been an ancient bond between the two. There is a dog-shaped hole in most of us and a man-shaped hole in them as well.
Why? Why do we or I need their companionship so much?
Believe it or not, this is a big deal question that anthropologists, sociologists and psychiatrists have been studying. Each field of study has come up with a different theory.
- The sociologists say that the relationship was formed as a means of social support. Dogs helped us hunt and protect our families, while we kept dogs warm and fed. We are linked historically. We’ve evolved together.
- Then the anthropologists believe in the biophilia hypothesis which says that dogs fulfil man’s need to connect with the wild and the nature that our evolution has us growing away from.
- Psychiatry believes that our egos need the bottomless adoration and love that only canines provide.
They are all wrong.
While walking with my new pup (of course, we got another one) it hit me.
The silence and fragrance of late spring was all around us. We were both delighted in the evening and each other. As Buddie looked up at me smiling, which he does a lot, it just hit me.
I don’t need to be adored as much as I need to be able be able to actively adore.
That sounds weird, I know. I have family whom I love but all relationships are complicated. Kids grow up and away. Parental relationships with grown children may be the stuff of Shakespearian drama; wicked step-mothers, addled old fathers, tyrannical parents, murderous uncles, –betrayals, loss, arguments. As well as fairy tale dreams: pride, rainbows, new beginnings, weddings, babies, fairy godmothers, closure. Deep love- at its best is complicated. I hate to admit it but my care for those I love is too often muddled by expectations and strings. I wish it wasn’t, but…
With a dog, I get to love absolutely without human expectation. Just love.
To cuddle and not be asked to stop because they grow up. With a dog; I learn how to feed, train, teach, exercise- I work hard for their advantage without the deep secret wish for gratitude or control. A dog is sentient being to be watched over and cherished. A companion to share good and bad days, a companion to just be with.
It’s as if, dogs are here to teach me how to love fully, completely without expectation. If I can love my family and friends with the same guileless wonder that I love my dogs, my family’s world will be a better place.
Then there is the God thing. While walking with Buddie, both of us quiet in the late spring world, vibrant, it occurred to me that my absolute love for my dog was a fraction of how God must feel about me.
God had given us a companion to teach us how to love and to show us how much we are loved.
Dogs with their cold noses and warm hearts are miracles.