“All his life he tried to be a good person. Many times, however, he failed. For after all, he was only human. He wasn’t a dog.” ―Schulz
Some days everyone hates you. Your stress boils over to such epic proportions that it becomes a sentient being. Everyone has their hand out. Every task conspires to break you. You come home broken and tired.
Then, as you open the door…
…your dog tears ass around the corner, feet scrambling but not gaining purchase like a cartoon character. His body contorts in ways that defy physics and biology in his total and unabashed excitement that a member of his pack has returned.
That moment is why everyone needs a dog.
Here’s my dog – Gatsby.
You can’t tell the story of Man without the story of Dog. Archeology tells us that the dog as a “domesticated” creature came into existence long before we figured out agriculture. They hunted and gathered with us and have been at our sides ever since. The wolves that benefited from trusting their two-legged neighbors slowly evolved with us. Scientists call it co-evolution, but I call it our oldest friendship.
Dogs gave up their freedom and aligned their fate to ours because they saw a worthy ally in the “us versus them” battle of life. It is a huge responsibility because they have kept up their end of the bargain a million times over. Without dogs I’m not so sure there would have been an “us” to worry about. This is why when any person goes against our end of the bargain and abuses a dog, it’s a crime of the most heinous caliber.
Dogs are grouped with “pets” but anyone who has a dog knows that it is a ridiculously inadequate classification. They protect us against the world and against each other. They keep us warm. They pull our sleds both literally and metaphorically. Having a dog is a better stress reliever than Xanax. Dogs help their owners live longer. They pull us from fires and safeguard our families. All they ask is for an undisturbed spot in the sun to nap.
There are few times in life when a promise is more fully delivered than when a dog welcomes you home. No matter what is going on in my house, when my door opens, my dog is all tail wags and dog smiles. No matter what the world thinks of me, my dog loves me. That level of consistent and unwavering unconditional love is not seen anywhere else but is truly something to aspire to. Gatsby has greeted me that way every single day since we’ve known each other. Every. Single. Day. Without fail.
If you don’t choke up a little when you watch those videos of a dog greeting a soldier coming home from war, then you are a robot, my friend. You can almost hear the dog saying, “You’re home?! You’re home! You’re home. Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!”
For comparison sake, here’s the cat version of that video. “You’re home? Whatever. Just don’t touch my stuff.” Cat people make jokes about the unconditional and sometimes goofy loyalty of dogs and we make jokes about cats for exactly the same reason.
Sure, during this past Westeros-style winter, having to walk a dog multiple times a day was not fun. And yeah, Gatsby makes me angry to my soul when he wakes me up howling at 3AM to answer some dog barking 5 miles away. He’s settling into middle age like a grizzled and tired veteran of life. He steals food, he snaps at me when I make him move out of my spot on the bed and he pees on my son’s floor when he’s mad at me. He growls at me and I growl back. He once ripped up an entire package of diapers.
That last one wasn’t his fault though – my kids have broken his mind.
Gatsby and I patrol our neighborhood for smells, other dogs and discarded treats. If Gatsby finds a particularly disgusting smell, he’ll pull on the leash with all his might to roll in it. Saving it for later? I don’t know. Some questions you don’t ask your friends. He can circle for hours around a pee spot if I let him. He’s in no hurry. He reminds me take my time. I should slow down a little – if not to enjoy the scent of another creature’s urine, then at least to enjoy the fresh air.
He is ready at ALL TIMES to either nap or run like a lunatic. At ALL TIMES. He doesn’t moan about it. A ball is thrown? He runs. The family lies down? He lies down. He will do anything for a scratch or a treat and isn’t ashamed about it. He knows that there is ALWAYS time for a stretch. Always.
It’s true that some people take the friendship too far and give dogs a bad name. They dress their dogs in absurd outfits and carry them around in bags. They pull out pictures of their dogs when others are talking about their (human) children. Let’s not even get into the haircuts.
I get it because dogs are awesome. They’ve been in our story for so long that it’s easy to forget that they’re not people. Treating dogs like people is understandable but it does them an injustice. Dogs are not people. They’re better.