The only time in my life that I can remember being without a dog is when I lived in Washington, DC right after college. For a few years, I was petless until a mama cat walked into our townhouse and gave birth to four babies. My roommate and I kept one of the kittens each and rehomed the others and mama cat. When I moved a few years later, the brother/sister team were a bonded pair so I said goodbye to Sidley Ann (she was originally Sid Viscious until I discovered that he was a she!) and she stayed with her brother ‘Coon and my roommate, Rhonda.
Most of my life I’ve had dogs and cats and multiples of both but I’ve always been drawn to a dog. Big dogs, mostly! I’ve had labs and lab mixes since I was old enough to choose for myself (got a lab I named Boo Boo who went to FSU with me!). But I love them all…big dogs, little dogs, hairless dogs, shaggy dogs.
First, I love that they are clever. Look at all that floor space but Kennai knows the best spot and softest spot is to sit in my lap. That’s where he’s going to get the full-on doggie massage and butt scritchin’! The first day we took this dog out of the kennels, we had to put up curtained panels around him so he couldn’t see the other dogs. Now he’s a bubba smoosh and can tolerate being close by other dogs…he still tracks them but we can manage that.
Secondly, dogs don’t hold on to stuff. They aren’t score keepers. There is no secret chalk board that they are making marks on when you mess up a training sequence and don’t treat them when you should. Kennai isn’t saying to me, “Ahhh, I’m not going to sit for you today because remember last Thursday when I sat for you and you didn’t tell me I was a good boy or give me a piece of cheese?”
Third, you always know where you stand with a dog. They are not capable of playing mind-games with you although some people really think that their dog tore up their favorite pair of shoes to get back at them for taking them to the vet instead of the dog park. I’m pretty sure the dog tore up their favorite pair of shoes because a) they were accessible and b) they smelled like mom or dad. A dog that doesn’t want you near is going to warn you away with a growl or with body language. A dog that is more submissive may give you appeasement signals like showing his belly or a submissive grin.
Fourth, a dog helps me center myself. I can drift off into a deep meditative state just by stroking the dog’s back. I don’t have to worry about carrying a conversation. We can just sit together and be. I know studies have shown that petting a dog or cat can lower blood pressure but it’s something deeper for me. I once took a class on how to meditate at the Atlanta Yoga Center. During the class you learned to focus on the air coming in and out of your nostrils while chanting your mantra to get into a deeper meditation. Petting a dog is like chanting my mantra.
Last, and most important, dogs bond with you unconditionally. You are their person to steal a phrase from Grey’s Anatomy! You rock a dog’s world and you are the person who feeds him, nurtures him, pets him, exercises him both physically and mentally. Have you ever noticed that when you are sick, your dog is right by your side? Because I have a multiple dogs at the Litt Palace of Puppy Love, I’m lucky to get the “tuck in” effect when I’m not feeling good. I usually have one of the girls on the left side of me, one on the right side and one by the feet. Sometimes I’m lucky (ha!) enough to have one resting on the same pillows as my head!
Dogs are my happy place and I’m a very lucky individual to have them in my life!