For us writers, there's always a beginning, a middle and an end to every story... and somewhere in the mix is a sudden realization, a stunning revelation or an enlightened epiphany. Here's mine... After a lifetime of living, working, training and companionship with dogs, I've discovered... dogs are a lot like us. Or would it be more proper to say, we're a lot like dogs? See, I've never been without a dog in my life, except for very short periods of two or three weeks. I can't, I don't know how to live without at least one. Some people don't dog, I don't know how not to dog. Dog people know what I'm talking about.
Dogs are social pack animals with a hierarchical structure. People are social pack animals with a hierarchical structure. And non dog people will never admit to it, but deep down, we are all dogs... except dogs are better at it than we are. They're more loyal, giving, loving, nurturing, selfless, happy and forgiving than we can ever hope to be... yet we're considered the developed ones. Throw a $100 bill down on a crowded sidewalk and watch a bunch of people on their hands and knees fight over it like dogs fight over a bone. Not the best example, I know, but it's a pretty clear parallel, isn't it?
It all started about a week ago when I woke up feeling like I'd swallowed a box of flaming razorblades washed in acid. Good freaking greif. I couldn't seem to get a spoonfull of honey down my throat fast enough. Next came herbs, tea, vitamins in bulk, and anything else I could think of to dull the pain - short of seperating my head from my body. It helped in various levels of success and I decided to tough it out and beat it on my own terms, though it left me unable to work on the narration I had planned to do for a fellow author. Still, I felt like I was winning.
Until day two. For the love of God, give me drugs. Yeah, I almost made it through the second day... but without sleep I was wrecked. About 2 am I gave up and drove to the closest 24 hour pharmacy and bought an arsenal of cold remedies, cough syrup, lozenges, and anything else that sounded good. I used them all. Together. Then curled up on the couch in a blanket with a couple of pillows and the dog who never once left my side - despite my hacking, sneezing, coughing and night sweats.
Curled up at my feet at the other end of the couch, risking his health to give me unsolicited hugs kisses and comfort, that little soldier made sure I was emotionally supported in my war on whatever hellspawn virus I had stumbled upon. I suppose his motives could be purely mercenary - I mean, I am the only one who feeds and walks him - it is just him and me... but dogs just don't think like that.
It was day 3... or maybe it was day 4 when I woke up on the couch and realized what it all meant... Have you ever wondered, when you're feeling like death warmed over, the most comfortable place in the entire house is wrapped up in a blanket, on the couch or sofa in front of the TV? It's not for the entertainment I assure you - c'mon you're barely lucid, I know I was pushing the boundaries of comatose. Honestly, there could be some inane talk-show or infomercial droning on for all you care... it's pack noise. And that comfortable reassuring feeling you get snuggled into the corner of your couch? That's the security of the den.
You feel safe, protected, comforted that no one can reach you from behind in your weakened state. On that morning when I woke; me curled up on one end of the couch, Jax curled up on the other end, I realized we were den mates, and he was guarding my flank. We looked like bookends. My array of pharmacy crap littering the coffee table in front of me was eerily similar to the pattern of his toys scattered around the floor - gifts and entertainment for me, supplied by him. And then there was his favorite tennis ball tucked under my chin, and one of his stuffed animals stashed behind my curled legs. Things that bring him happiness and joy, gifted to me by a selfless soul to ease my suffering in the hopes of making me happy. No alterior motives, just pure compassion.
Having a dog is certainly not for everyone, they require a considerable commitment... but clearly, my experience proves to me the reward is worth it. And without getting into the very sticky comparison of having a dog vs having a wife, we'll save that little gem for another discussion, let's just say dogs are cheaper than divorces.
My advice? Open yourself up, be the dog you were born to be. Be the kind of dog your dog would be proud of... it'll make you a better person.