I’ve spent the last few weeks not sleeping well, which is common in peri-menopause. I woke this morning at 4.30am and couldn’t drop back off, so I lay in the dark listening to a talking book until 5.30am when I was so bored, and so awake, I had to get up. I turned on the light and Bertie, my Miniature Schnauzer, groggily opened one eye from his bed over in the corner, saw me sitting upright and thumped his tail in greeting.
“Good morning precious boy” I smile at him. His tail thumps harder and a surge of love washes over me. It’s been the same routine every morning for the past seven years and never gets old.
I pat the space on the bed next to me and he jumps up. I envelope him in my arms then hold his face in my hands, gaze into his eyes and tell him “I love that face. That face is the most gorgeous face in the known universe” before kissing him all over mwah, mwah, mwah. He sighs with pleasure and as his velvet, floppy ears wobble slightly I could cry I love him so much.
I wish I could love people the way I’ve loved my pets. Fully, unconditionally and with wild abandon.
I leave him with my parents on a Wednesday night for two hours while I’m at my Camera Club and when I come back and he hears me thudding up the staircase to the apartment he comes tearing along the hallway, eyes shining, tail about to wag off like I’ve been gone for two years. I kiss his face and tell him “I’ve missed you soooo much” then hug him tightly to me until he wriggles free to run into the lounge to tell my parents “Mum’s home!”. If he never left my side for another second of his life it would be fine by me. My Mum grumbles that I don’t greet her like that and I bite back the reply “that’s because my dog has never hurt me the way you have hurt me”.
Is he perfect? No! There are days he barks so much I want to rip out his vocal cords. I have to bribe him to get in the car every single day and over the years he’s stolen so much food he could set up his own shop but I don’t hold it against him, not like I would a person. Why is that I wonder? Probably because I know it’s not deliberate or calculated or selfish, he’s just doing his own doggie thing the way nature intended.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could love human beings the way we love our pets? And even more wonderful if they could love us back the way Bertie loves me. He doesn’t care how fat I am, what I’m wearing, how sick I am, how much I earn, what kind of house we have, what kind of car I drive or how old and saggy I’m becoming………….he is happy just so long as he is by my side.
I am typing this in bed, with the laptop propped up on a pillow, twisting at a weird angle to reach the keyboard which is making my back scream because Bert is lying between my legs, his head on my thigh content to be full of breakfast and snuggling his Mum. I couldn’t think of a better way to start the day.
Over my years of illness my pets have kept me alive in a way no person ever could. They rely on me every bit as much as I rely on them and our mutual need and unconditional love for each other sustains us in a way nothing else can. All Bert asks of me is that I feed him, walk him, keep him safe and love him and when you think about it that’s all we human beings need: food, a home, to be safe and to be loved. The difference between us is that when my dog has all those things he’s happy and content, whereas people just want more, more, more and are rarely satisfied – there’s always something or someone better over the horizon.
My pets have taught me so much about what it is to love and be loved. They don’t hold a grudge when I’m grumpy and shout at them. They forgive me for not seeing the world through their eyes. They put up with my cack handed attempts to train them, even when they don’t understand why they have to fetch the ball or not dig up the garden. They put up with being ignored for hours on end while I do something more interesting and the 1001 other things I’ve got wrong in my care for them. They instinctively realize that I’m doing my best and love me for trying.
If we could love people the way we love our pets imagine how wonderful that would be.