It is incredibly easy and, yet, so difficult to write about the love of a dog. Now if that isn’t a dysfunctional way to start this chapter on love, then I don’t know what would be!
Let me try to open this up to a more rational line of thought.
Dogs are so quick to show their love for a human. It could be the wag of a tail, the way a dog’s eyes connect with our eyes, a gentle lean of a head against our legs, curling up on our lap, licking our hands or our faces, and more; so much more. All of these ways make sense to us. For they are familiar to us humans from the point of view of how we show our love to our partner or to our children.
But there are a myriad of stories about a dog offering love to a human that go way beyond anything that we could emotionally understand. Let me offer one that was published on my blog back in January, 2011. It was the story of a Skye Terrier called Bobby.
Namely, that on the 15th February 1858, in the City of Edinburgh in Scotland, a man named John Gray died of tuberculosis. Gray was better known as Auld Jock and on his death he was buried in the old Greyfriars kirkyard situated on Candlemaker Row in Edinburgh.
Bobby had belonged to John Gray, who had worked for the Edinburgh City Police as a night watchman, and the two of them, John and Bobby, had been virtually inseparable for the previous two years.
When it came to the funeral, Bobby led his master’s funeral procession to the grave at Greyfriars Cemetery, and later, when this devoted Skye Terrier tried to stay at the graveside, he was sent away by the caretaker of the church.
But Bobby returned and refused to leave; whatever the weather conditions. Despite the efforts of the keeper of the kirkyard, plus John’s family and many local people, Bobby refused to be enticed away from the grave for any length of time and, as a result, he touched the hearts of the local residents.
Although theoretically dogs were not allowed in the graveyard, people rallied round and built a shelter for Bobby and there he stayed, guarding Auld Jock his late master.
There Bobby stayed for fourteen years, laying on the grave, leaving only for food.
To this day, close by Greyfriars Kirkyard, there is a Bobby’s Bar and outside the bar a cast metal stature of Bobby on a plinth.
The love that a dog shows us is a form of unconditional love that is not unknown in our human world but is not common. I would vouch that few people have truly ever experienced unconditional love or are even clear as to what it is. For although one might define unconditional love as affection without any limitations, or love without conditions, in other words a type of love that has no bounds and is unchanging, the reality of the love of one person towards another, a spouse, lover or child, is that there are limits to how that one person is treated and that going past those limits, regularly and persistently, eventually destroys that love.
Let’s turn to the world of novels. Some book authors make a distinction between unconditional love and conditional love. In the sense that conditional love is love that is earned through conscious or unconscious conditions being met by the lover. Whereas in unconditional love, love is given to the loved one no matter what. Loving is primary: an acting of feelings irrespective of will.
Yet there’s another aspect of unconditional love that relates commonly between individuals and their dogs. That is that our love for a dog encompasses a desire for the dog to have the very best life in and around us humans. Take the example of acquiring a new puppy. The puppy is cute, playful, and the owner’s heart swells with love for this adorable new family member. Then the puppy urinates on the floor. One does not stop loving the puppy but recognises the need to modify the puppy’s behaviour through love and training than, otherwise, continue to experience behaviours that would be unacceptable in a particular situation.
Having explored the concept of love and how dogs offer us the beauty of unconditional love, how should we adopt a loving approach to the world, and why?
It’s the little things that count is a famous truism and one no better suited to the world of love. Little things that we can do in countless different ways throughout the day. Sharing a friendly word and a smile with a stranger, dropping a coin or two into a homeless person’s hands or, better still, a loaf or bread or a chocolate bar. Being courteous on the road, holding a door open for someone at your nearby store, showing patience in a potentially frustrating situation. Continuing, perhaps, with such little things as never forgetting that we have two ears and one mouth and should use them in that proportion, or be more attentive when a loved one is speaking with us, possibly engineer periods of quiet contemplation, understanding that the world will not come to an end if the television or ‘smartphone’ is turned off for a day. The list of loving actions is endless. Or in the words of Nelson Mandela, “No one is born hating another person…People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
Why this need for love?
Because this world of ours so desperately needs a new start and that start must come from a loving attitude to each other, to the plants and animals, and to the blue planet that sustains us.
We need our hearts to open; open enough to tell our heads about the world of love.
1,001 words Copyright © 2014 Paul Handover