People say that if you want to experience true, unconditional love you should get a dog. I say be careful about what kind of dog you get because they might just break your heart.
I have three dogs at present and I would say only one truly provides unconditional love. One of the dogs is not mentally stable and he definitely needs more from us that what we can reasonably expect in return. One of the dogs is spoiled and while I know she adores us, I know also that she expects a great deal of reciprocity in the relationship and she can easily get her feelings hurt, get herself into a funk or get some attitude if we are not delivering on her needs.
I was travelling for work this week and for a variety of reasons I do not take the dogs with me when I travel. If they were small and docile I would probably consider it, but they are not small and they all have quirks that make them poor travel companions (other than a car ride up to the mountains) so the dogs were home with my husband and I was on the other side of the country. I saw the dogs lying on their beds in the office while we were on facetime and I missed them because I love them and so I started talking to them through the screen, which my husband graciously pointed in their direction. The old dog, the dog that loves with a pure and easy heart is old so her hearing is bad and her eyes are bad and she stayed asleep until she went to bark at the ups driver (which I am pretty sure is not something she has to see or hear anymore, she can just sense the disturbance on the block deep in her bones).
The spoiled dog put a paw up over her head when I called her name. I called again and made kissie noises at her. When I do that at home she comes over and puts her wet doggie nose on my cheek. Sometimes she rests her head on my shoulder and snuffles. I was hoping she would get up and come over to the screen so I could say hi. Instead she picked her head up, looked at the screen, audibly sighed and then buried her head under a forepaw again. My husband wisely said, “you’re not here so she has no use for you, don’t waste her time.” Her love, you could extrapolate is conditioned on my presence and my ability to interact directly. A long distance relationship would not work for Apricot.
The new dog looked at the screen and cocked his ears at my voice but looked very confused about the disembodied sounds. He is often confused so I am afraid I may have set him back a bit in the consistency we are trying to provide in family functioning. He probably forgot why he was confused shortly we signed off, attention span is not one of his strong suits.
We like to think that our interactions with dogs are a simpler relationship than human to human. In some ways they are certainly. But in some ways that are just like, we don’t pay attention to that because dogs don’t speak English so we don’t have to listen when they tell us about their feelings or want to work through an issue. They aren’t just things that stay at home and feel nothing as we move about around them. I see it when I am the one who stays as my husband goes, or when my daughter moved off to college, or when my son is gone in the summer. So think about that when you get a dog, think about what you are looking to get and be clear about how much you have to give. It’s like with everything in life, you have a part too.