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The soul of a dog

Posted in Life & Love

The rain wakes me up at 3 am. In the dark, I fumble for my pajama pants and slippers, and I tiptoe downstairs. I look for the dogs on their beds but I don’t see their shapes: they relocated to the sofa, butt to butt, curled up, their faces squished against the pillows.

In the dim light that I venture to switch, in a deep slumber, they can’t even hear me. I cuddle next to them, listening to their rhythmic breathing, inhaling their sweet scent. I rest my head against Ottie’s (mmm, his breath is less than stellar) and I feel his muscles tense in a dream, maybe he is replaying the long walk in the enchanted forest a few hours earlier, paws deep in mud, stream crossing and unfamiliar scents.

I could be lulled back to sleep right here, warmed by their furs.

Like every pet owner the world over, when I look at my dogs I don’t see animals. I see family members, half-way between four-legged creatures and fully fledged humans. And I don’t think it’s a classic case of anthropomorphization. When Ottie and Portia kill birds, chase after deer and coyotes, smell other dogs’ butts or – horror – eat other animals’ feces, I don’t feel they have much in common with me. I don’t fool myself into thinking they are capable of laughter, for instance, but I do know they experience feelings similar to ours: happiness, gratitude, contentment, anger, vindictiveness are only a few I see displayed on a daily basis.

They look for my reassurance when they are sick; their internal clocks alert them to different times of the day and different activities associated with those times; they are instantly more drawn to and more trusting of the people I love more; they aim to please but they have a mind of their own. And different personalities.

Portia is more independent, cunning and slightly mysterious with what she does with her alone time. Ottie is more fierce and dependent, and still the alpha male who will not put up with any bullshit.

Like any family member, they have their roles, their duties and expectations. We all work around each other’s habits. Unlike family members, their dissent is never hurtful, although dissent is clearly expressed.

I can’t think of a life  without animals. What years of having dogs, birds and fish under my roof have taught me, what they have taught every pet owner the world over, is that animals have a consciousness and a depth of understanding that science is only now waking up to and confirming through rigorous experiments.

Animal owners are welcoming this validation but we didn’t really need it. We knew all along.

Ottie wakes up from his dream, startled, like I would, and lifts his head to look at me, then at Portia: it’s still dark, it’s raining outside, I am stretched against him. Everything is the way it should be. He relaxes and goes back to dreaming.

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14 Comments

  1. This post almost moved me to tears, I have lived with dogs all my life until 6 years ago when I came to live in China. Dogs ARE family, and you described the feelings we ‘owners’ have so beautifully. I say ‘owners’ but truth to tell, we have had several dogs who firmly believed that they ‘owned’ us!!

    February 8, 2017
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      There is an animal rights’ movement here in the States that would like to see the word “owner” abolished, as animals are not property. I hesitated before using it myself, although, legally, we are responsible for them. In this particular household, the dogs run the show.

      February 8, 2017
      |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I didn’t refer to myself as “mother” so you wouldn’t all think I am deranged but I share your feeling.

      February 8, 2017
      |Reply
  2. You said it perfectly. Having just adopted two 4 month old puppies 3 weeks ago, I could not agree more.

    February 7, 2017
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      That is adorable! So much time ahead of you to spend with them.

      February 8, 2017
      |Reply
  3. silvia
    silvia

    You couldn’t have said it better. So sweet. Thanks for sharing I believe that pet therapy works for me even if pets are thousands miles away

    February 7, 2017
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      The Otties cast their nets wide and far.

      February 8, 2017
      |Reply
  4. I live for the times when they come curl up on me, their slow breaths rising and falling, completely at peace with the world and contented to occupy space near or on me. Life is good. ღ

    February 7, 2017
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Can I confess to adoring their smell?

      February 8, 2017
      |Reply
  5. Winston Moreton
    Winston Moreton

    Hard to imagine life without smelly four-foots and their unconditional love and loyalty. I guess their presence gives us a sense of security and wellbeing plus the joys of caring for them

    February 7, 2017
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I never thought about animals in terms of security but I think you are right – they do make feel secure. Couldn’t think of walking in the house and not be welcomed by their slob.

      February 8, 2017
      |Reply
  6. Lori F
    Lori F

    Mmmmmmmm. When I go to the couch to lay next to Oscar de la Hoya in the middle of the night, I wish I could stay there forever and call in sick to work for eternity – I am with you sister!

    February 6, 2017
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Maybe you should, just once. Call in sick and hang out on the couch with Oscar de la Hoya.

      February 8, 2017
      |Reply

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