When I drive into my driveway after working all day, they are lined up in the window looking for my car.
When I close my car door behind me, they start jumping up and down and calling to me.
When I open the front door, they mob me, practically knocking me down requiring my attention, demanding to be told I love them and to have their ears scratched.
No, I’m not talking about my children, or my husband, or my parents, or any human being who may love me. I am talking about my Cocker Spaniels.
Of all the things in my life, I believe most strongly in my Cocker Spaniels.
I envy the simplicity of their lives. They ask no more from me than food, shelter and the occasional foray to the dog park. In return they are devoted to me, forsaking all others before me. They are my companions 24x7x365, even when I’m not there. They agree with everything I say – if I told them that the world was ending they would stay beside me, wanting to spend their last moments with me.
I work in Cocker Spaniel rescue so I frequently see the results of what we civilized humans do to the animal we have made the most like ourselves. We burn them, we beat them, we run them over, we abandon them…we fail to meet their basic needs of food, shelter and veterinary care. Even after all of this, most dogs continue to love us, wanting only acknowledgement of their existence and for a human to see that they are important.
All of my Cocker Spaniels are from rescue. They have various health problems resulting from poor breeding and abuse. I spend a lot of time hurting my personal dogs and my foster dogs in the name of making them well. They always seem to understand that I am trying to help them, though – no matter what I have done, no matter how many times I am convinced that I’m going to get bitten this time, it doesn’t happen. After I finish coaxing the last pill down or cleaning the last set of stitches or washing the last hot spot I invariably get a gentle kiss and a snuggle.
The American Kennel Club breed standard for the American Cocker Spaniel describes the temperament as “merry” and I can’t think of a better word to describe them. This merriness allows them to survive the slings and arrows of outrageous humans relatively unscathed and to continue to see that which is positive in humans rather than to hate us. Cocker Spaniels are optimists. I believe that we have a responsibility to honor the commitment and trust they show us with equal commitment and trust of our own. Why can’t we see each other in the light that the Cocker Spaniels see us? I believe that if we let them the Cocker Spaniels can show us the way.
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