Do dogs ever realize just how much they are loved?
By Paula O’Kray
A few weeks ago I went to a paddling conference in Madison. There were all sorts of wonderful things to look at and buy and learn and ways to get excited about being out on the water. Dozens of speakers came to talk about many different aspects of paddling. But this year, there was something a bit unusual. There was a speaker talking about how to get your dog to come along with you on the boat.
Now most people can get a dog on a boat quite easily. They want to be with us, after all. They want to be where the fun is, where the people are, and definitely where the food is, because humans are known to be clumsy with their food. But getting a dog in a canoe or a kayak is quite another thing.
This particular speaker was from Canada and had taken his dog on many canoe camping trips. The dog has learned that the canoe will take him to many wonderful places he has never been, and very likely to have a good time. So the dog is a very willing travel partner.
Of course, there are times when things aren’t so much fun, like when it rains. The images displayed of an annoyed canine and the disgusted, sidelong glances the speaker captured of his pet were quite entertaining.
While the speaker was sharing ideas on how to coerce our best friends into climbing into a water vessel with us, I was thinking about other things. As the room filled up prior to the talk, I found myself smiling. All the people coming to this talk were dog people, and I found a lot of comfort in that.
Before the talk even began, people were sharing stories of their attempts to get their dogs to do all sort of things, with varying degrees of success. I really loved the fact that I was sitting in a room full of dog lovers.
And then I wondered … do dogs realize just how much they are loved? Sure, they know they are loved when we are with them, scratching their bellies and stroking their ears, giving them treats … but do they realize how much we love and enjoy them when they aren’t around? Do they realize we tell stories about them with great pride and love in our faces as we speak? Do they realize we are planning all sorts of fun things to do with them?
What would they think if they knew we actually spent time with another human, learning how to have even more fun with them? I mean, dogs basically live in the now. They just sit around and wait until we have an idea to do something with them, and then they are all over that.
Do dogs realize how much we think about them in our day-to-day life? Do they know we miss them?
Do dogs realize we enjoy telling stories about them, that we enjoy shopping for them, that we enjoy sharing them? Do dogs ever wonder why they aren’t allowed in most stores but always welcome downtown at the Companion Shop? What do they think of stores like that? Is it like going to DisneyWorld in some sort of doggie way? We will never know.
Could they possibly have any concept of the joy and comfort they create in our lives? I tell my dog these things all the time. She seems to understand so much, I’m guessing that some part of what I am saying is getting through, if only from the inflection in my voice alone. I always said that I never wanted a dog that was smarter than I was, but I’m pretty sure my dog is.
She lets me know if I’ve overslept the alarm, for starters. She’ll get quite snotty about it too, snapping her muzzle at me if I don’t get out of bed when she needs attention. After she eats breakfast, she’ll come upstairs and wait outside the bathroom while I do my morning routine, and if I get a text message on my phone, she’ll come into the bathroom to let me know.
That’s right, folks. My dog is my butler. People think I’m kidding but it’s true. She runs a tight ship. She scares away strangers from our front porch and sidewalk, and makes sure the backyard is clear of squirrels. They laugh at her from the trees and power lines, but she is ever vigilant.
She won’t tolerate bugs in the house either, and has caught any fly that somehow manages to get inside. I don’t know how a 60-pound dog can catch anything that fast with wings, but she does. Every time. She knows how to use her big soft brown eyes to get a treat out of the stingiest human being. This dog has mojo and she knows how to work it.
That said, she does have her vulnerable moments. If we’re on a walk and a firecracker goes off in the distance, she’s done. There’s no talking her into continuing, she’s already heading home, and at a brisk pace. No stopping for any trees, she’s on a mission to get to the safety of the house.
A temporary neighbor who shot off a blasting cap one particular Independence Day weekend is to thank for that. It shook the whole house, and I can’t say I blame that dog one bit.
She also takes care of me in vulnerable moments. In general, if I’m upset, she’ll come to me and try her best to comfort me. I remember a particularly sad day I was having last fall, and as I sat on my porch steps having a good cry, my sweet friend came over to me and literally kissed my tears away, as if she understood.
Last week during the thunderstorm, I found my typically independent buddy under my chair and leaning into my thigh pretty heavily. She worked her way under my knees, where she doesn’t really fit, and stayed there. If I got up to get something, she was right with me. There was no way to comfort her other than to pat her from time to time while consoling her with loving words.
Eventually she drifted off to sleep. I heard an odd hum that sounded like a song, but from far away. After a few moments I realized it was her breath, the inhalation with a high tone and the exhalation low. She was singing to me in her sleep without even knowing it. Of course, the song only lasted until she was relaxed enough for it to turn into a full snore, but even that was endearing.
And while I listened to her snore, I felt comforted, as I always do, that we both have a very dear friend in the other. Friends who care about each other and take care of each other, and take turns being brave for each other. And I’m guessing way down deep in her doggy heart, she does know just how much she is loved.