The love of a dog
Has an idea or a feeling ever emerged so clearly and vividly in mind, as if it had never been there before?
Katie and I have a little dog, a sweet mutt named Arlo. He will be 6 (we think) in February. We adopted him almost 4 years ago when we were living in Albany. Going to the adoption clinic we had another dog in mind, but we quickly took to Arlo (that wasn’t his original name), and when we walk around with him he would stay right next to us; sitting at our feet whenever we stopped. We knew he was meant to come home with us.
Katie and I always ask each other whether we think Arlo knows how much he is loved; whether he knows that we are “his people,” his “wolf pack.” I don’t doubt that he does. During his first years with us, whenever we would go any place (e.g., family’s houses) he would stay right with us—in our laps in fact. He didn’t want to leave our sides.
We don’t have kids, so the closest we can come to understanding, to feeling what it is like to share love with another being besides one’s spouse is through Arlo. It is an amazing moment to realize that something else has a connection to you—call it “caring,” call it “love.” Whatever word you wish to use, to see another being express it, to see him or her bring you into their life and treat you as one of their own is a really incredible thing. I was walking Arlo the other morning and it was bitterly cold outside—single digits—and after only a couple hundred yards I could tell that his feet were starting to freeze. He started to favor his his back paws, hopping a bit and shuffling along. Suddenly he stopped, turned, looked up at me, and hopped a few steps towards me. It broke my heart—his look said, “Hey, I’m in some pain here. I know you can help me.” It was a moment of realization—he felt a connection to me, that I was someone who could help him. So I picked him up and carried him home, all the while he was shaking a bit and licking my hand. I know he has shown me that kind of love before, but for whatever reason the thought and the feeling hit me like a shot. It was pretty incredible.
I am sure I will be amazed when a similar, albeit more powerful, moment of realization occurs when I have a child—when he or she looks up at me, as the one who can help them, who they see as a source of comfort. For now, my love and devotion is caught up in this little ball of fur, this little man who unquestionably sees Katie and I as “his people.” The power of that feeling will never diminish—I just cannot wait for another such moment of realization when he looks up at me and I can try to interpret the expressiveness in those eyes.
Of course, it will probably turn out be something much more inane and less remarkable, like, “Hey, can I have a biscuit?”