Unconditional love. (Wo)man’s best’s friend. Blah, blah, blah.
I’ve seen the standard explanations for why we love dogs so much. But I think they miss the mark.
I know the real reason we love dogs so much.
Dogs Pay Attention To Us
If you weren’t raised in a basement by troglodytes, you probably assume someone loves you. In fact, everyone in the world probably has someone who loves them.
And if they don’t, they won’t live long.
But how may people pay attention to you? Notice everything you do? Smell every scent you carry on your body?
Only your dog does that. Because dogs pay attention to us like no one else.
No One Knows Me Like My Dog
My husband loves me. But he doesn’t always notice me.
He’s missed countless hair cuts and new clothes. He’s walked past rooms I’ve painted without noticing the new color or the smell. Heck, I took Honey for an hour-long walk and he didn’t even notice we were gone.
And I’ve done the same to him.
But my dog Honey doesn’t miss a thing.
Honey sleeps on the floor under my desk and knows if I’m just shifting position or if I’m getting up from my seat. She knows the difference between me preparing to leave for the office and going outside somewhere she might be able to join me.
I can’t make a move without her noticing.
Not Just Golden Retriever Syndrome
It’s true that golden retrievers and some other breeds and mixes have a particularly strong tendency to pay attention to humans. But even dogs we think of as independent tune in to our every mood and action.
Your dog may not be a cuddler. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t aware of you from his spot at the far end of the couch.
And every dog, no matter how driven they are by outside forces (catching prey, following scents, standing guard, counter surfing) knows what you’re up to.
What’s really amazing is that even dogs who don’t seem to pay much attention to us tune in more as we learn to pay attention to them.
Breaking Through to Shadow
Before Honey, I lived with Shadow.
The paperwork I got when I adopted her from the SPCA called her a hound mix. I didn’t see much hound in that dense thick coat or those decorative eyebrows. But I sure saw it when we went for a walk.
Shadow put her nose to the ground and didn’t raise it again until we went inside.
I had no hopes of ever stopping her from pulling on leash because she paid no attention to me whatsoever. And when the trainer at the beginning manners class told me Shadow would learn to pay attention to me during clicker training, I thought she was insane.
But it happened.
Eventually I got Shadow to make eye contact with me outside, despite millions of smelly distractions.
And the more I paid attention to Shadow and what she needed, the more she paid attention to me.
Who knows where our relationship could have gone if it hadn’t been cut short after two years from cancer.
We All Want to Be Known
Think of how frustrated you get when someone who’s supposed to know you totally misunderstands you.
Sure, we want to be loved. We want to be liked.
But I think humans really want to be understood.
Dogs don’t have brains that allow them to understand us in a deep way.
Honey doesn’t know why I love books by E. M. Forster and will never read a novel by Jane Smiley ever again. She doesn’t know why I’m afraid of heights. Or why I’m philosophical but not religious.
But Honey recognizes my smell as different from anyone else. She feels comfortable beside me. She notices everything I do. She sees me every day, really sees me, warts and all. And she stays by my side.
Even when I’m not half as good at knowing her as she knows me.
And that’s the real reason I love dogs.
Your Turn: Has your dog ever amazed you by showing how well they know you?