In moments of frustration with the dogs, there is always one thought that makes me slow down, pause, and smile. It is this: I think these animals really like ME.
And I think they like me because they express happiness in my presence and seek affection from me, even when food isn’t involved. This is why humans have always been coming back to dogs, I suppose (or how dogs became dogs in the first place): Dogs, perhaps more than any other animal, are drawn to people. And vice versa; we are an easily flattered species.
I have never doubted Pyrrha’s love for me. She bonded intensely with me just a few weeks after we adopted her, this shy, terrified mess of a dog (and as a consequence, she has not really bonded with Guion at all; she still exhibits fear of him in certain moments). Pyrrha hid from me in corners of the house when we first brought her home, but gradually, she started to depend on me and then, to seek affection from me.
It is a special thing, to have a relationship with an animal who lights up when you enter the room. Some dogs (most golden retrievers I’ve ever met, for instance) do this with any person who is present, and so everyone feels good about themselves. But it is a different thing when you have a dog who only lights up for you, no one else. Generally speaking, Pyrrha’s attachment to me is a great weakness of hers; in my absence, she is never truly at ease (so say my husband and everyone who has ever watched her when I’m gone). But emotionally speaking, how can I not lap up this unconditional affection? How could I not reciprocate it?
Pyrrha is so gentle and sensitive; when she looks at me, I can’t help but assign more human emotions and thoughts to her. (Let’s be real, even the science-loving among us can’t resist the temptation to do this with our own dogs — at least to a degree.) I can just make eye contact with her from across the room and her tail wags. This doesn’t happen with anyone else. She likes to come up to me and bury her head in my chest and just stand there, immobile, soaking up the pets.
If we get a quiet moment on the sofa, Pyrrha will come sit next to me and put her head in my lap. This may not sound like a big deal to those of you with cuddly dogs, but this was HUGE when Pyrrha first did this. She does not enjoy being touched by people, and the day she first voluntarily put her head in my lap, I almost cried for joy.
In many ways, Pyrrha is a dog-shaped mirror of my own complicated, anxious self, and she’ll always be my first girl.
And then we have Eden. Eden is more of a universalist with her love, which is one of the main reasons we adopted her. We wanted a puppy who thought everyone was a friend and ally, and we have that in Eden in spades. (She distinguishes herself as a shepherd, however, in that her family comes first, and she doesn’t think every single human being is her instant BFF).
We’ve had her for a little over a month, so I’m not sure if she’s necessarily bonded to us yet, but I feel like she does like us. She likes to hurtle her body at you when you walk in the door (something that we’re working on), and when she does manage to sit, her body is trembling in anticipation of human affection. When Eden is over-excited about greeting us in the morning, she likes to nip at our hair and clothes, which is not my favorite expression of love, and so we’re working on that too.
Eden isn’t much into tail wagging, at least for me. I think she might like Guion more, which is OK with me, because I already have 100% of the other dog’s affection. Guion gets ample tail wags when he comes home. Eden’s method of showing me that she cares are the quieter moments in the morning, when I’m getting ready for work, and she saunters into the bathroom and then leans up against my legs, or lays down and puts her sweet little head on my feet. How can you not pause and think, Surely, makeup can wait. Surely, this is why we keep these crazy animals around.
Happy Valentine’s Day, readers! How do your dogs seek affection from you? How do you think they show you love?