Thursday, October 29, 2009

How Dog Ownership Can Make You a "People Person"

People who are serious about their pets often (unfairly or not) get a bad wrap for not really liking animals on two legs--you know, fellow people.

But something I've noticed is that watching friends and family interact with dogs often has enhanced my love and respect for that person.

When you see a man engaging in baby talk to a dog, or your friend gets you AND your dog a Christmas present, or you, as an adult, still receive Valentines from your parents--for the dog--you see the depth of the person's capacity for love that you don't normally get to observe in ordinary life.

The presence of a dog has a way of letting someone's guard down. The person is no longer trying to hide the vulnerable chinks in their armor. Their need to express love for the dog overrides the need to keep up any sort of facade. So even the most reserved seeming person will be rolling in the floor playing with a puppy.

There have been instances where witnessing someone with a dog has made me love that person even more. Case in point would be my now husband, then living-in-sin partner. Sorry, my husband-that-shall-remain-nameless, hope I don't embarrass you here...

Our first golden retriever rescue had a horrible case of heartworms when he was rescued from an East Texas shelter and into the amazing local rescue program. As a result, he had to have a very serious treatment (arsenic!) to kill off the worms, and had to remain completely calm so, as the worms died, they would not enter his bloodstream.

After I picked Dante up from the vet after administration of the drug, I could tell he was feeling wretched. He was walking slowly and was relatively unresponsive and I was so worried about him, despite the vet's indication that this was not abnormal given the severity of his illness and strength of his dosage.

When my husband came home from work, he gently picked Dante up out of the kennel, as one would a baby, and placed him in our bed, Dante's head on my pillow.

My husband then refused to leave Dante's side for the rest of the night; even eating dinner in bed while keeping vigil with Dante.

So while I always, always, knew my husband was an exceptionally kind, generous, and thoughtful man, witnessing him in this situation actually made me love him more. I was not aware at this point that I could love him more than I already did. But I did, and I still have moments even now with our dogs where my love grows for him as I watch him interact with the dogs.

But it's not just limited to the people you live with. Any time I see how my husband and I's parents (we consider them the dog's grandparents, and rightfully so) interact with our dogs, I see the love that they have for us reflected in the love they show the dog.

My parents routinely drive 350 miles round trip on a workday evening to meet my husband and I halfway between our home and theirs so that the dogs do not have to go into a kennel when we go out of town. (Even a fancy, expensive kennel is not acceptable to my parents.)

Our dogs mysteriously develop a Cheetos obsession after my in-laws visit.

My sister and sister in law send our dogs Christmas presents and remember the dog's birthdays.

Friends know to ask, after we swap information on how we're doing, how my dogs are.

Seeing the love that your friends and family are capable of for a dog lets you realize the extent of their capacity for empathy, love, understanding, and forgiveness. They are indirectly showing the love for you by the way they treat your animal.

And that, if nothing else, will make you a "people" person.