How does your dog love you?

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.

Weird dog
Pyrrha Louise.

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.

Portrait of a lady. #pyrrhagram

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.

Baby girl
Eden Loretta!

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.

Guess she's allowed on the chairs. #ediebaby #germanshepherd

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?

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11 thoughts on “How does your dog love you?

  1. What a sweet post. You really conveyed the depths and differences of their personalities! Mine all show their love differently. Cooper is a lot like Pyrrha in that I am his person, so he constantly seeks me out. Emmett loves everyone who ever looks his way, and he’s solicitous, leaning his head into the knees of whoever is closest. Lucas, though, struggled with connecting with people, and even though he’s long past that with us (and a few key friends/family), when he thumps his tail when I walk in the room, I just burst!

  2. Pyrhha sounds a lot like my Jeni. She pretty much only likes me, and she’s very nervous about the rest of the world and most other people (she has grown fond of my husband over time though) but we have a bond like I’ve never had with another dog. There is something special when a dog puts all their trust in you like that.

    Snoopy is my first dog and I love him, but he pretty much likes anyone who gives him food or a spot on the couch. He was much more attached to me when it was just me and him and he would be sad when I left – other people said he would lay by the door all day while I was at work but after a while, with the other dogs and Chris moving in, he has become an everyone’s dog.

    We always say Bauer is the dog’s dog – he is very hard to bond with because he is just more independent. He likes us, but he is a Pyr and he likes to just, sit outside and watch the house. He also likes the other dogs more than people. But it works fine for him.

    Happy Valentines Day to you and the girls!

  3. Isis used to lie across us like a blanket. I really miss that. Mia sometimes crawls up above Rob’s pillow, usually with her butt facing me. I’m deeply moved when I wake to find her facing me, if she rests her head on my shoulder. Leo walks up to us to check on us and has grown to tolerate our kisses and hugs. But he wouldn’t come up to us if he didn’t like them a little, right?

  4. What a sweet post:) Kaya and Norman are overgrown lap dogs who love to cuddle and give kisses. They vie for the coveted spot by my face at night and greet me excitedly when I get home. All I have to do is smile at them or acknowledge their existence in any way and their tails start thumping. They’re pretty obvious about it. Though I must admit they act this way for everyone, not just me:/

    I guess what sets me apart is that I’m the one they look to for guidance, permission and direction. I’ll never leash Kaya to walk her around the neighborhood because she heels by my side the whole time but my mom needs a prong collar to manage her.

    Zoey sounds a lot more like Pyrrha. She loves to lay by my feet and she occasionally walks by the couch to dish out kisses.

  5. Even though we have had Tala since a puppy she has actually become more affectionate with time. Unlike most dogs she was quite aloof as a puppy perhaps because of her pariah dog background? My favorite way she shows her love is that she yodels and sings when we get home. It’s entirely different from a bark but nor does it sound like the Basenji yodel. She just seems to be so deeply happy when she makes the noise (only when either me or my husband comes home) that it makes me happy too!

  6. This is such a beautiful post. All of our dogs follow me from room to room. Blue was our universal dog and he loved us equally. Sydney and Rodrigo are my dogs; the puppies are my babies too. They all run to the door when J comes home and it’s so beautiful to see. I love our family.

  7. I was googling why my dog likes to bury his head in me too and your post came up. Such a sweet story! I am not a fan of big breeds like German Shepherds but my germ shep owning friends tell me they are such sweethearts. I think I fell for your dogs after hearing your descriptiobs about how they show their love! πŸ™‚

  8. I adopted a dog that exhibits every single behavior you mentioned about Pyrrha, especially the fear of others and extreme anxiety when I leave her in the care of someone else even just for a few hours. She took six months to even begin to warm up to me and now we’re inseparable but I was just wondering if you know of anything that might help her with her separation anxiety when I leave. How do you deal with Pyrrha’s anxiety ?

  9. Any one of us (dog people) know the love given by our baby – at any degree – is an exponential sign of connection and affection. Whether my boy curls up next to me when there’s an entire house to curl up in, presses his head into my throat or chest for no reason, stops in his tracks and runs right back when he starts to bolt when he senses worry in my voice, or gives me (literal) hugs and kisses when I get home/just because, he and I KNOW our connection and magnitude of love for each other. It’s a crazy thing between man and animal, and your article captures it beautifully. Well done πŸ™‚

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