I’m inspired today not by some feat of modern man, some impossibly delicious meal I challenged my digestive system with, or a piece of comedy or art currently playing in my mind. Instead, I sit comfortably on my couch with my pound puppy sleeping next to me, and my dog version of Bob’s Big and Tall at my feet. I realize how I rarely feel alone in their presence, and as much as I value and encourage alone time, there’s something about the company of such simple, pure beings, full of nothing but unconditional love and affection. They are far better listeners than even the wisest monks, are genuinely thrilled with your presence and grateful for your care. It’s not necessary for me to harp on about the value dogs play in our society, from the numerous therapeutic effects, a successful part in the rehabilitation of prisoners, their ability to lead the blind, detect a seizure, or the instinct honed to determine if your blood sugar is low; each of these monumental endeavors proven to enhance and save lives. I don’t need to recount the plethora of human beings I know who are alive because of their dogs. I can only pull from my experience and for this I speak from the heart, because my head is far too insufficient.
I remember the day I met my first dog. I can still see the crimps in the fur on her ears. I can smell her awful breath. I can hear her whimper from excitement as we walk through the door. I can see her face and body when she knows she’s in trouble; for instance, when she couldn’t take it any longer and ate the entire contents inside our kitchen trash can. I can see her swimming into our deep end to fetch a toy. I can see her playing dead, with her tail still wagging. I can hear her shake water off herself as she emerges from the pool. I can feel her nose on my face. I can see her lightly hit walls as a result of her blindness. I can still feel her kindness, her smell, her personality, her soul I suppose. Whatever that is, that essence, that light, that love, THAT is what God is. I had this epiphany at 16, after putting down Liza Minnelli (our nickname, not her actual name), and feeling heartache for the first time. I can still feel the crease between her eyebrows (dogs have amazing eyebrows, my current dog, Bear, has wonderfully expressive eyebrows) and that tells me all I need to know.
My dog taught me real love in a strange way, because all I’d learned from about 9 years on was that adults are flawed, love is fleeting and conditional, and certainly don’t count on it. My dog dared me to believe differently. She didn’t care if I got a B on a test, if I had acne on my face, if I had money, clothes, a hot older brother or something of value to others, she was happy to be in my presence, just as I was. I enjoy the cynicism that accompanies me through adulthood, it protects me against the total bassackwards pricks that frequent some streets, those potentially dangerous streets feeling safer in the presence of my dogs. I have the lessons that my dogs, Yoga and beautiful human beings have taught me to find my balance, to regulate, and to progress. I learned the lesson from animals first. Just be.
Being responsible for the health and care of a dog has forced me to confront my own mortality. You don’t need a pet to do this, you can simply contemplate your own existence and pontificate on death, if you wish. But dealing with the emotional and financial toll during an animal hospital visit is an un-welcomed reminder to engage in preventive medicine, take even better care of myself and appreciate my currently level of health. My pups are never as stressed as I am when they’re ill. It looked like a crime scene in my apartment and all Bear could do was lick my kneecap. He was happy as can be, blood escaping out of his furry sphincter. What a lesson. Chill out, someone will remedy this, we’ll find out how this happened (pork chops by day, twinkie’s by night?), and never do that again. Preventive medicine. I give my dogs their heartworm and I take my multivitamin and flaxseed like some yuppy drone. The way I see it, the fewer doctors visits, the better. No thank you.
My point to this pointless article is to suggest you spend some time with animals if you’re currently living without one. I know plenty of animal lovers who simply cannot have dogs or cats, for whatever reason, and their beautiful houses are missing something, that fur covered joy shape that makes a house a home. I’d be reticent to trust anyone who doesn’t like animals or dogs, and I’ll boldly exclaim (with plenty of evidence to back me up) that on average, pet owners (especially dogs with all the walking and playing and such) are healthier than those without their presence in their home, mentally and physically.
I’d even go so far as to suggest you could save the planet and your wallet and opt for a dog over a child. Harsh, offensive words, I know, but hear me out. This world is over-populated with a widening selection of not great people (there are many great, but that’s not the point), we’re depleting natural resources rapidly, polluting our air and water, and brains, and bodies, our empire is coming to an end so we need some fornicators to take a break and hold off on spawning until we’ve become the next Great Britain, home to many excellent dog breeds. Adopt, plenty of reasons to do that good deed. And educate, experience, achieve and save before you bring a child into your world. You’ll be an even better parent if you wait until you’re wiser and more prepared. You can work long days, travel, or be hungover as hell and just have a neighbor take care of them or leave them for a few more hours. Little frowned upon if you had a human baby.
A dog allows you to feel needed, responsible, loving, compassionate and worthy. And they shit outside on their own after a little training. Their instincts will tell them when to comfort you. They’ll never resent you. They’ll never live long enough to need a college fund. They’ll rarely embarrass you. They’ll never point out your failures, or blow up your ego because of any successes. They’ll only make you feel whole in a moment of real emptiness. A comrade in moments of loneliness. And the sound of their snoring will soothe the stark silences. Yes, you are buying into a tiny tragedy, it will most likely die before you do, but death and suffering bring about major catharsis. Through the scariest, loneliest and most trying times, I learned, I grew. And through it all was my dog, present as the buddha himself, playful and insightful all at once.
I miss my childhood dog every single day, if I think about her too long, I cry. This article, however playful and lighthearted its been, was difficult to write because the emotions attached to her death are still potent, she’s left a legacy even deeper and more impactful than some humans I’ve lost. I cannot imagine the challenge of losing either of my current dogs, as they’ve been with me since I became a we, they’ve grown into adults even quicker than I’ve managed, humbling me everyday. I find their hair in everything and instead of following that uptight, everything must be perfectly tidy and sparkling type, I opt to feel gratitude and joy when I vacuum their hair everyday and buy their food every other week, because they’ve enriched my life in an invaluable way. They’ve made me better.
Adopt. Walk. Donate. Love an animal.