Why Dogs?

Why dogs? What is it about these furry, funny creatures that can capture our hearts and change our lives? We (I use this term loosely!) dress our dogs up, afford them the best of medical care, take them to meet Santa Paws, provide them with quality organic food, and even throw them birthday parties… in the last 15 years, the US jumped from $17 billion to $43 billion in the amount of money we spend on our pets.

But if you are reading this blog, it is safe to say that you probably agree that loving our dogs is not all about the money. In fact, the financial ‘investment’ is probably the furthest thing from most of our minds. Loving our dogs is about loyalty and companionship, entertainment and comfort. But, the question remains: why dogs? Why not pigs or horses, or even inanimate items that constitute hobbies… trucks, fishing poles, etc?

Is it the way they love? Unapologetically and without restraint. Tongues flying, paws prancing and scrambling, they want to get as close to us as possible. They rest their heavy heads on our knees, as their deep eyes look into our own, expressing what their mouths cannot. Scientists may argue that this ‘adoration’ is simply an appropriate appreciation of resources, and acknowledgement of the vessels that provide them (ie: we bring home the bacon). However, I argue that all dog lovers know the difference between a friend’s dog, staring longingly into our eyes while we nom down on a burger, and our own dog’s adoring glances when we’ve been away for an extended any amount of time. Not to mention, what about when that loyalty extends to those members of the family who are not the ‘pack leaders’? Many new parents discover a new found love for their dogs, once two-legged puppies enter the scene. When properly introduced, dogs can take on a role that is fiercely protective of the children in their family, who have no resources to offer in exchange. Many adults will look back on their childhood most fondly when recalling memories that highlight their family dogs. Perhaps even more noteworthy, is the fact that dogs who have been socialized appropriately may display affection toward other (prey?) animals in the house, be it dogs, cats, and even bunnies.

Via tumblr

Via tumblr

Perhaps it is their zest for life, their passion, if you will. Watching a dog run and tumble in hot pursuit of a bouncing ball, or dashing and splashing their way into a cool pond is enough to bring a smile to even the most cynical among us. They bring a uniquely lighthearted intensity and exhuberance to everything they pursuit, be it chasing birds, stealing food from the table or hard-core napping. For many dogs, even training can be fun, and our pups respond almost as if they want to help us learn!

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Is it their obedience? It can’t be that, because Gaige doesn’t have an obedient bone in her body, and yet still, she is the apple of her dad’s our eyes! In fact, it is sometimes in her contrary disobedience that we are nevertheless able to so clearly see the depth of our affections for her.

Perhaps it is their honesty. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never met a dog with a particularly good poker face. Even with three pups in our house, if I walk in to a plate pulled off of the counter (Georgia) or a chewed shoe (Gaige), their guilty mugs identify the perpetrator almost immediately. Even more worthwhile are their honest evaluations of the people they encounter in their environments. I will trust Tonka’s perceptions of character over any reference or compliment I hear, because his reservations have never once been wrong.

My boys <3

My boys ❤

We cannot forgot the dog’s intelligence. Sometimes during a particularly intense training session, it seems as if Georgia’s mind is working so hard, I can actually see the lightbulbs flickering and eventually turning all the way on. Dogs are intelligent creatures, but more than the way they learn, is what they perceive. They seem to possess a wisdom far beyond their years, and hold the secrets to some of life’s most lingering questions. The greatest lessons I’ve learned in life, have come from my dog.

You have to give dogs points for their patience, which I must admit, is commendable if for no other reason than that most of us don’t possess much of this attribute ourselves. This trait is visible not just when it comes to begging endlessly for food. Our dogs spend their lives waiting for us… waiting for us to come home, waiting for us to understand their requests, waiting for us to broaden their environment to walks and adventures. They wait for us, not with frustration or annoyance, but with an unbridled joy when we finally return, get it, or explore. Another trait that humans should envy is the innate confidence that many dogs possess, which is admirable because it often exists regardless of physical stature or athletic abilities. The tiny Chihuahua isn’t afraid to yap at the massive Dane, and the diminutive Corgi doesn’t hesitate to dive head-first into the water.

I think my favorite canine trait is loyalty, which I believe to be different than love. No matter how the days pass, full of activity and outdoor romps, or spent lazily indoors, our dogs greet us with the same frivolity, regard us with the same adoration, and protect us with the same courage. They forgive us when we are unclear or inconsistent, and are always looking toward the future. Although our dogs have memories, or at least recollections, that allow them to recall where they hid their favorite toys or just why they hate the bath tub, they are quick to forget our mistakes and flaws.

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You may most admire their companionship and observance (and I’m not just referring to the squirrels outside the window) by they way they move with you through the house, shadowing your steps in and out of rooms, never letting you out of their sight for more than a few minutes at a time (unfortunately, even when it comes to the bathroom!). Again, cynics may suggest that this behavior is simply a creature being on the alert, anticipating the possibility of potential rewards such as outdoor romps or surprise snacks. I prefer the belief that my dogs can’t bear to let me out of their sight. For our dogs, not only must they keep an eye on us, but they prefer to be physically touching us: laying on our feet, nestled against our body, or heads resting on our hands. They romp through the woods, running far ahead, but occasionally turning back to us for a quick pat on the head, seemingly reassured by our presence. Not to mention, what person do you know that would be happy to go along for a car ride with you, no matter the destination or length, just content to be by your side?

Dogs are endlessly resilient and courageous. To meet Georgia is to know nothing of the neglectful past she has endured, and the same can be said for so many dogs who have experienced trauma and violence. Their courage is impressive, seen time and again in stories of devoted dogs laying down their lives to defend their  family members. The next time you roll your eyes or yell as your dog barks ferociously at the door, take a second to analyze that act. Sure, it could be a hyper-active overreaction to the mailman. At the same time, how many of our dogs would valiantly defend us with everything they have? I know I would be my own life on mine…

Those of us who work with rescued dogs, who may have seen horrors we cannot imagine, may point out that not all dogs exemplify this list. Certainly, some dogs become withdrawn from play, and are hesitant to embrace the environment around them, etc. But somewhere inside of these dogs, is a little soul that yearns to be cuddled and protected. In spite of their fears, in their hearts lies a fighting spirit that enabled them to endure their tragic past. It may take time for traumatized animals to come back to their natural state, and maybe some won’t ever recover completely, but I believe that this list describes what we all know to be the essential Man’s Best Friend . Sure, there are some quirky dogs that just don’t fit these stereotypical tendencies… and yet their owners love them all the more for it! The dogs that are ornery, difficult, and aloof can sometimes inspire the most devoted companionship out of us.

At the end of the day, I think most of us can agree that the reasons and the depth of loving our dogs are one of the few things in life that defy words, and travel just out of the grasp of language. Nevertheless, we try. So tell me: what is it about dogs, or perhaps your dog in particular, that you are over-the-moon about, and just can’t get enough of? There just might be a giveaway in exchange for your answer! (But I’ll choose to believe that you would answer even without the bribe 😉 )

8 thoughts on “Why Dogs?

  1. Very well said! I don’t think it’s just any one thing, it’s all those things and possibly more. I like the quote “Dogs may not be our whole lives but they make our lives whole.” While my pups may not be my whole life (I do have to work, etc), they sure are a HUGE part of it, quirks and all. :o)

  2. I just started following your blog and I LOVE what you have written today! I have 2 fur children and one I have had since she was 8 weeks old and Miss Walker is 8 and a half. Minnie we just adopted from a small animal shelter. She is about 2 years old. If I had to try and narrow down my favorite things about my girls it would have to be how happy and excited they are to see me when I get home from work. No matter what kind of day I’ve had they are beside themselves with welcome for me. I also love that they have to always be touching me when I am sitting down:)

  3. I love this. You are so right (about everything!) but I love the part about being excited to go for a car ride, no matter the destination. I sometimes load my dogs up just to drive around the neighborhood because, while it’s a little thing, it brings them joy.

    I guess if I had to pick one thing about all three (if I did it individually for each of them, we might be here all day…) I suppose it would be the excitement they exhibit when we get home. It’s the same joy at seeing us regardless of if we went to the corner market or were at work all day. Nothing else really can make you feel as loved as their excitement to see you, just because you are you, which to them, is everything.

  4. Thanks for the post! It really made me wonder, what do I love so much about Cabana? I had to laugh at some of the other comments. Cabana never gets excited when we come home; she barely even gets up from wherever she’s laying down–but every morning when I take a shower, she comes upstairs and lays on the bathroom rug on the other side of the shower door. She doesn’t need to be touching us when we’re lying on the couch or sleeping on our bed–but she loves to be petted and massaged and to sit near us. She’s probably aloof compared to other dogs, but there’s no doubt in my mind that she loves us deeply.

    I think that’s what I love about dogs. They are all individuals, with their own preferences and tendencies, and they know how to figure out what we prefer and tend to do, too. If we allow them to, they match themselves to us, and we probably do some of that back to them.

  5. There are so many things I love about my dogs, their ability to live in the moment and take joy from rolling in something smelly or freshly mown grass, the way they take away a bad mood as soon as I walk through the gate and the funny noises they make during doggy dreams. I love Bundy’s wiggly butt and the way he snuggles into my neck when it is cold at night, I love Maxi’s goofy smile and the way she rests her head on my lap as she leans against my legs. So much to love about dogs, what a wonderful post, thank you for making me smile 🙂

  6. I love everything about my dog…even his “bad habits” like barking and butt stinkies, but when he runs over to me and gives me kisses because I ask or leans into my boyfriend for a snuggle (something I didn’t think he would ever do with any guy), I just love him to pieces. Oh my god, he’s so my favorite.

  7. What I love about dogs is their resilience and love for life. The amount of joy my dog has over a new toy- priceless. 🙂 The look on his face when I pull out the treat pouch- focused, ready to work. The happiness he has when I come home from school- it’s as if I’d been gone for weeks. But most especially, Leroy is not always a touchy-feelie type. He doesn’t love to be hugged or smothered. But every night, he needs to cuddle with his mommy under the covers and he has to touch me. That’s what I love most about him ❤

  8. I just want to take this wonderful post and frame it!! I agree with everything that you said! The unconditional love dogs give you, from the dogs that live with you to the dog that lives down the street, is so addicting!!!
    They are nonjudgmental, yet (like you beautifully said) are great judges of character! For instance, thanks to Taylor, I am now great friends with a neighbor of mine whom I know I would have never approached due to our completely different backgrounds if I was not a dog parent.

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