By Lydia Crochet
We love our dogs, right?
In my family, dogs are everywhere, and they’re considered family members. I have two fabulous little dogs; both live indoors, both are three-legged rescues, and both are eagerly awaiting my next move as I sit at my desk to write this.
Jeanie, with her calm and sweet demeanor, is a registered therapy dog; she provides comfort and love, not only to my family, but also to hospital patients, nursing home residents, children in counseling, and the like. Pippa, well … is not. She’s boisterous, energetic and slightly crazy. She certainly has her comforting moments, and she’s very loving (when we can catch her), but she’s really more of a protector.
They’re both amazing, and are truly my best friends. I have many wonderful human friends, but none (that I know of) do the happy dance when I walk in the front door. Not one human friend has ever sat lovingly at my feet in exchange for a piece of bacon.
There have been many days (or maybe every day) when I couldn’t wait to get home to see my dogs. This was especially true while I was working in the criminal justice system, as dogs don’t steal cars or write bad checks.
While I realize that cats are great companions for many (and are usually law-abiding creatures), I’m allergic, so I can’t attest. But I do know how happy my dogs make me. They’re simply the best, and we truly feel love for them.
Jeanie has her own Facebook page (and why wouldn’t she?) in which we chronicle her therapy visits and promote pet adoption. Most of the friends who visit her page are die-hard animal lovers. Out of curiosity, I asked her Facebook friends (she has way more friends than me), to comment as to why they trust and need their dogs, and why they would rather be around them than humans, or even love their dog more than some humans.
They didn’t hold back. There were many different reasons and adjectives mentioned, but two recurring words in particular really stood out: unconditional and genuine.
Unconditional: without conditions or limitations; total; not subject to special terms or conditions.
As humans, we love to be loved. It’s nice to be accepted for who we are, faults and all, and dogs do that. There’s no judgment. They don’t care what we look like or what we do for a living. They love us when we are sick, tired or grumpy. If they are reprimanded for being naughty, they forgive us within minutes. They are not concerned with the mistakes we’ve made.
For instance, there are special programs in which dogs are rescued from euthanasia and paired with prison inmates. These carefully selected inmates work with trainers to prepare these discarded dogs for adoption. The dogs receive proper care from the inmates and in return, they often become the inmate’s best friend. As long as their needs are met, they don’t mind being at a prison or that their new best friend is a felon.
Genuine: sincerely and honestly felt or experienced; actual, true; free from hypocrisy or pretense; sincere; authentic; not counterfeit.
There are people we are genuinely happy to see. And there are those we come into contact with more casually, or simply can’t recall who they are. But we smile and pretend to be happy we’ve run into them to avoid hurt feelings. Dogs do not work that way. Have you ever seen those internet videos of a soldier returning from deployment being greeted by his or her dog? I cry each time I watch them. The bond, the love and the excitement are all genuine. Unlike humans, dogs do not have the ability to fake that kind of joy.
The Things We Do For Our Dogs
“The things we do for our kids…” Have you heard this statement from a parent? Humans love their children unconditionally and genuinely, and will do things they would normally never do if they didn’t have kids. And they do it out of love. For pet lovers — aka pet addicts, obsessives, annoyingly attentive dog parents, crazy cat ladies, etc. — the same holds true.
While we make sure our pets are fed, safe and have proper vet care, some of us will go the extra mile by doing things like leaving the television on all day so the pet feels less lonely or buying expensive toys, treats and pet food. We’ll kiss them goodbye each time we leave. We will speak “baby talk” to them, we will cook for them if they are on a special diet, and we will even sing to them (badly, in my case). We will push them around in a pink stroller, and we will take pictures of our husbands pushing said pink stroller for blackmail. No? Just me? Too far? Maybe.
Here’s a good spot to digress and discuss the stroller situation. Yes, I am the proud owner of a pet stroller. But for the sake of my husband’s dignity, it can also be referred to as “a crate on wheels”. It is specifically designed for pets, not human babies (it says so on the box). And because we own two female dogs, the rolling crate just happens to be pink.
Now, some may think I’m taking this a tad too far. I’ve heard it all… “Really? A dog in a stroller?” or “That dog is spoiled.” And my favorite comment: “That’s one hairy baby,” to which I normally respond with “she takes after her dad.” (That seemed clever the first 20 times I heard it, not so much now.)
The stroller really comes in handy for pets with special needs. Elderly pets, or pets with hip or weight issues, really benefit from a stroller. And because both of my dogs have only three legs, they fall into this category. Jeanie, who is missing a front leg, appreciates the stroller while on pet therapy visits. Sometimes during these visits, a lot of walking is involved. The stroller gives her a break by taking weight off of her arthritic front leg.
Pippa, on the other hand (ahem), is missing a back leg, but she has no idea it’s gone. And because she could quite possibly be the world’s fastest three-legged dog (this truth is verified in a viral video, featured on MTV), she really doesn’t need the stroller. But Jeanie gets to ride, and because I’m an obsessed, addicted and annoyingly attentive pet parent, it’s only fair that Pippa rides too.
We Grieve Because We Love
I’ve often heard during a time of loss the phrase “we grieve because we love.” When people who have never loved a dog witness their dog-owning friends mourn their dog’s death, they may consider it an overreaction.
But for dog lovers, the loss is life changing. The loyal, ceremonial greetings at the front door after a long day are no more. The daily scheduled potty breaks and feedings are cancelled. That furry ball of happiness at your feet is gone.
A few years ago, we suffered a great loss when our dog, Jack, passed away. Jack was a member of our family for 13 years, and had to be put down after a long illness. The veterinarian placed Jack’s body in a bag and my husband buried him in our back yard.
Jeanie missed Jack as much as we did, and on her first potty break after his burial, she made her way over to his grave and sat on it. Each time she was let out into the yard, she would go over and sit with him. This was heart wrenching and extremely painful to watch, and it went on for two days.
I could not take it anymore, so I called a local funeral home and asked about cremation; I was advised that I could still bring Jack’s body in to be cremated. This meant, of course, that I would have to dig him up. My husband was at work, so I had no choice but to pull myself together, grab the shovel and dig. So I did. I wrapped the dirty bag in a beach towel, placed it in my trunk and delivered his body to the funeral home to be cremated.
I believe this was the best decision for our family, though others may see it as lunacy. We loved him and he loved us. If exhuming and having our loved one cremated is drastic, I’m okay with that. And since none of the neighbors witnessed me excavating a dead dog in the back yard while wearing pajama pants and rubber boots, my husband is okay with it, too.
The Benefits Of Loving A Dog
Dogs make us feel safe and secure. Not only do they provide constant companionship, but they also help to keep us safe by alerting us to strange noises and smells around our home.
Years ago, my husband, who lived alone at the time, was awakened by his border collie, who slept next to his bed. She began to growl, stood up, and paced until he sat up and noticed her. She then focused in on something in the corner of the room. It was a man, a burglar, standing there motionless. My husband yelled at him, causing him to run out the back door.
After the police came and investigated, they concluded that the suspect wasn’t there to harm my husband. Because of similar reports in the neighborhood, they believed it to be a case of burglary. But the suspect certainly had the opportunity to harm him if that had been his intention. Thanks to his loyal companion, JB, my husband was safe, and nothing was taken. And thanks to the two little security guards that live with us today, we are notified of any suspicious activity around our home. We are alerted to every intrusion: joggers, closing car doors, solicitors, lizards — you name it, they’ve got it covered.
Research has shown that petting a dog can provide certain health benefits. It’s said that when you pet a dog, the hormone oxytocin is released, triggering feelings of happiness and providing relief from stress and depression. Living with a pet can help lower blood pressure, boost immunity and lessen anxiety.
Jeanie and I visit hospitals, nursing homes and veterans homes. I’ve personally seen the physical transformation in some patients during our visits. One particular elderly resident in a local veterans home suffered from dementia, and had been crying for nearly two weeks. Enter Jeanie, and the resident was automatically content, and even joyful at times. Are you lonely? Go to a local shelter and adopt a dog; it’s an instant fix.
And, as an added bonus, dogs also possess the ability to bring other humans into our lives. Do you have trouble meeting people? Dogs can help. People are more likely to start a conversation with you if you have a cute dog on your lap. They may even ask you out for a chance to see the dog again.
It’s so easy to love a dog. While other animals show affection in their own ways, dogs have the ability to show signs of love, guilt, concern and even grief. The status of your relationship with your dog will never be labeled as “complicated,” even when your dog is naughty. Once the bond is formed, it’s unbreakable.
I love a quote from John Katz, an American journalist and author. For me, this quote sums up the human/dog relationship best: “Raccoons and squirrels don’t show recognizable human emotions, nor do they trigger our nurturing (“she’s my baby”) impulses. So they don’t (usually) move into our houses, get their photos taken with Santa, or even get names. Thousands of rescue workers aren’t standing by to move them lovingly from one home to another. We get affection and attention. They get the same, plus food, shelter and protection. To grasp this exchange doesn’t trivialize our love, it explains it.”
Follow the adventures of Jeanie and Pippa on Facebook and Instagram, @jeanie3legs.