I believe in dogs.
Hefty mastiffs and fragile Yorkies; sleek whippets and busy shelties; All-American designer dogs, those mutts whose mismatched features chronicle their jumbled parentage; dogs whose long, fuzzy coats leave dust bunnies in the corner of the living room. I have known all of them.
I believe in dogs for what they can teach us about ourselves, and about the world, such as finding joy in the simplest activities. Turn my ten-year old Aussie onto her back and rub her belly, and she is in heaven. And it is a joy that is never diluted; she’ll pursue that last Frisbee toss with as much gusto as the first. Every one of my four dogs, well-fed and safe in their warm, dry home, wakes up each morning full of enthusiasm, and an attitude that seems to say, “Hooray, another day!” That joy is contagious, and is often what gets me out of bed and out of the house, playing and laughing in the rain or the bitter cold. But it is an attitude I’ve witnessed even when the day is viewed longingly through the wire mesh of a shelter enclosure.
I believe in a dog’s need and talent for healing. Whether I have a belly ache and my rescue dog lays her head tenderly on my abdomen, or bump my knee and my puppy knows just the right spot to kiss, I am amazed. I am especially in awe when it’s a hurt so deep inside that it can’t be kissed away, and my older dog quietly curls up in the crook of my arm as I lay on the bed.
Dogs have a genuine ability to build confidence and self-esteem. That ability to gaze up
at me with wide eyes, follow my every move and hang on each word I utter is a gift that makes me feel like the wisest, most important, and most beloved creature on earth, in a way that nothing else can.
And if, on occasion, I should fail to treat my dogs with the respect they deserve, I’m pretty sure they would give me a second chance; even a third and fourth, if necessary. I have known dogs brutally mistreated and coldly abandoned, and never allow those experiences to close their hearts. Nations of the world take note: a dog’s willingness to forgive and his desire to trust, even with a past riddled with pain and uncertainty, is a lesson for all of us. This, I truly believe.
As I write this essay, and pause to find the words to express the many ways that I believe dogs can teach, heal, comfort and entertain us, my hand slips from the keyboard onto the velvety head of one of the canines that share my home and my heart. She is both a comfort and an inspiration. I am reminded once again of all I have learned from the dogs that I have known, and the uncanny way that they have taught me all of this, without ever saying a word.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.