It can happen slowly, like the dogs who wiggle and sneak their way into our families, the ones who we only tolerate at first. The ones who make us wonder about their intelligence, the ones we can't believe shed so much, the ones who just can't seem to leave the trash can alone. And, the connection does not always happen. Many of us have owned dogs we kind of like, but we could give them away without a backward glance if someone wants them. We've had several of those. Like the Cocker Spaniel Randy Luther (five year old Josh named him) who was born without a brain. Or, with a very, very small one, in-detectible to the human experience. Or the jumpy, licky, barky, untrainable Abbie. She was a little white something-or-other who happily went to live with a family member when she wouldn't quit jumping over/ barking at/ waking up newborn Katie. We would never abandon a dog, we were just tickled pink when they went to new homes.
Then there are the dogs who take one look at us and decide that we are their people, their tribe. They have earnest love and acceptance written all over them. Those dogs give us something no human being can give. They never criticize or second guess us, something even our most loved loved-ones sometimes do (not to mention, something we ourselves to do). Eager to comfort us, dogs 'do love' the old fashioned way. They show it. No words needed.
Sometimes just putting my hand on our boxer girl Lucy's head changes my mood. Lucy is goofy and just plain thrilled with life. Her enjoyment of the moment flows right into my hand and up to my heart. I want to be like Lucy when I grow up.
Several people who are dear to me have recently lost dogs who loved them so well. Some are bracing themselves for the loss that is coming soon, though we know we can never really prepay what grief costs us. The silent space left in our lives can't really be filled by another dog, not completely. And that is the yin and the yang of loving. In spite of the pain, I would not give up the love of my dog to save myself.
I've heard that dog is God spelled backwards. At first that seemed silly to me, and I couldn't quite grasp it. Now, I've decided it makes perfect sense. Unconditional love. Dogs can't save us from making fools of ourselves, but God doesn't do that either. Dogs can't keep us from the inevitable, they are subject to the laws of nature themselves. But they truly are gifts. For me, all that is good in life comes from God. My own best self included. I won't press my theology on anyone, and I surely don't have a corner on truth. What I do have is the glory of nature that lifts me up. And the love of an animal perfectly suited to be my friend. I'm sure dogs were one God's very best ideas. He looked at man and woman (who were not always using their words for each other's edification) and said, "Let's give them a break. Let's give them solace in a fur coat." And he put a puppy in their arms. They all lived happily ever after.