Tuesday night at the movie theatre. “Bargain Night.” That, my friends, is top-shelf romance for the not-so-newlyweds. And so, my wife and I usually find ourselves there once a month to take in a picture and share a sack of popcorn, often compromising on both the genre of the film and the quantity of liquid butter necessary for good popcorn. Last week, the compromising led us to an unsatisfactorily butter-less bag of popcorn, and the dog flick, The Art of Racing in the Rain. I have a suggestion for the cinema – a complementary pack of Kleenex with each ticket. For as dry as the popcorn was, there wasn’t a dry eye in the crowded theatre. And coming from someone with a staunch no-cry policy, I was amazed to find a strange liquid oozing from my eyes already in the first scene. I promise not to spoil the film in case you haven’t yet watched it; however, as I viewed through droopy eyes, I drafted this essay for you in my head, and as soon as we were home, committed it to paper (while, I suspect, any dog owner who’d just come from the film spent the rest of the evening cuddling their furry friends tightly).
No, we aren’t dog owners, but I’ve been around the loveable creatures all my life. And when I moved out of the house, my parents moved in a yellow Labrador, who quickly became the “favorite son,” so I certainly have no bias! And from my experience, I’ve made a few observations.
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but there are certainly quite a few lessons those old dogs can teach us. Loyalty, forgiveness, gratitude. All seemingly innate traits of our four-legged friends. I could make quite a lengthy list of those special qualities that endear our canines to us, but I will limit myself to five unique habits of dogs of which we should take note, commit to memory, and perhaps practice in our own lives:
1. Dogs know how to enjoy simple pleasures in life. A good snack, a compliment, a ride in the car with the windows down.
2. Dogs know how to work hard and how to play hard. (And how to nap hard).
3. Dogs care about their family. They protect, they comfort, they embrace (with a sloppy smooch here and there, perhaps).
4. Dogs love with fierce loyalty and boundless devotion.
5. And finally, dogs live with pure zeal for life, living each moment to the fullest, with few wants or expectations – simply joy in life’s rewards.
I don’t claim to be an expert on dogs. The American Kennel Club doesn’t consult me when they make important decisions. I don’t know which breed is best and I don’t know how they should and shouldn’t look and behave. I don’t understand what makes a dog loyal, affectionate, and dutiful, and I don’t know why they spend their whole lives only wishing to make ours brighter. I don’t even pretend to comprehend what goes on inside their heads and what they do and do not perceive is happening around them. And finally, I especially don’t see what they find so attractive in us humans. But I do know this one thing: we mortal beings don’t even begin to deserve the unconditional love and affection we receive from man’s best friend.