What My Dog Taught Me About Love

By YourTango

dogs and dating
Breaking up and starting over with a canine in tow.

A few months and a breakup later, that signature took on new meaning as my now ex-boyfriend moved out, leaving the dog and me without looking back. Needless to say, I was a huge mess. But in those early days of heartbreak, the dog never left my side. He followed me around religiously. He growled at anyone who came near me. This was out of character. In those months when we were all still together, the dog clearly took to my ex, staying up late with him watching TV, trailing him wherever he went. But something changed when he left—the dog seemed to know I was the one who was sticking around, and he slept a little closer than before at night. 

We eventually moved away. The whole drive north I remember the dog patiently sleeping on the floor of the car while I explained to him what was happening, why we were leaving, how things were going to be great in our new city, how he would love the parks. I took him to get his new tags, got the vet to give him anti-anxiety medication so he wouldn't freak out in our new apartment and get us kicked out. Watch Animal Aphrodisiacs: Do Pets Help Us Date?

 

I felt like a good dog owner. But when we arrived it started to sink in: This dog is mine and mine alone. I need to train him not to bark, how to behave off-leash at the dog park, how to walk by my side instead of pulling me the whole way. When I started dating someone new, it became obvious that I needed to do something about the dog sleeping on the bed. Somehow having someone in my life again highlighted that this dog really did need some training. I was self conscious and wanting to demonstrate how in control and responsible I was. The dog wasn't a huge help during this transition: He was reluctant. He was jealous. He guarded me fiercely. He was only slightly interested in the $250 dog bed that was more stylish than my own. I took the initiative and signed up for a class at the SPCA. Shockingly, we excelled. The basis for training was food, which I've learned is the way to this dog's heart. Read: Pet Jealousy And How To Deal With It

Food has also been a huge threat. In our time together my dog has had his stomach pumped and cut open. He has swallowed a plastic ball and nearly choked to death. Each one of these episodes was extremely traumatic and reiterated just how attached I had become. Just how painful his suffering was to me. Just how responsible I felt for saving him. Now, almost three years after that fateful drop off, I can officially say I love this dog like I never thought I would. Walking him no longer seems like a chore and sometimes is my favorite time of day. I am still fascinated that his tail wags uncontrollably every single time I utter the words "wanna go for a walk" and that he leaps off his leash with equal excitement every day at the park. I love that he kisses some, but not too much and not every time I ask.

I love that he has finally warmed up to my boyfriend, but still climbs between us on the couch. I still smile at his signature pout when he watches me get ready to go out. The list goes on: He behaves in taxis. He barks every time someone knocks on a door—on TV. He sleeps on the dining room table so he can look out the window. He unrolls the toilet paper and drags it into the living room when I leave him at home for too long. He wags his tail every night when I walk in. He follows me from room to room without stopping, every single time I get up and move. When my alarm goes off in the morning he groans. He can sleep until 11 without having to go out. He doesn't run away when he is off leash. He makes me smile and laugh at times when I might not have. He is naive and innocent and devious and funny. 

I realize there are people who don't understand, who think loving a dog is a cop out. I listen to my parents sigh when I talk about paying for a dog walker. I hear the undertones of their comments implying not-so-subtly that this type of concern and obligation should only be displayed towards people, namely children. But as it is with all things in life, you can't anticipate who will walk in and who will walk out and what impact the coming and going will have on you. I do know that I am thankful for this little creature and that his gifts to me are many and constant. How can this not be love?