Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Love With Both Hands

Several times a day, our dog Stella will insistent upon my attention. If I try to scratch her ears absently, while continuing to scroll through my Twitter feed for instance, she'll use her nose to commandeer my hands. She wants both hands; she wants my full attention because that's the way love works.

I often think that the domesticated dog is among the greatest of human creations. We've bred them for many purposes, of course, but at bottom, they exist for one reason and one reason only: to love.

That, at least, has been the priority of every dog with which I've ever lived. Sure, there are treats and walks and romps with playmates, but expressing love has always come first. This is why it's so tragic when a dog is abused: they continue to love, even when the object of their love is, to our minds, undeserving.

There are times when it's annoying or inconvenient, when we brush our dogs away in our preoccupation, but we do so at our own peril. I sometimes feel that Stella thinks I'm a hopeless pupil, unable to grasp the simple, undeniable concept of love first. She persists even when I grumble at her. Indeed, it's when I'm at my most irritable and distracted that she makes her move, cautiously perhaps, ears and tail down, braving my mood in order to shove her head onto my lap as if to say: Let me show you the way. And she's right, I know she's right, there is nothing more important, nothing better, than this, and the moment I relent I realize that she is right. Of course, we love our partners, our children, our family, and friends. We may even love all of humanity and the entirety of creation, but unless we express it and often, that love is meaningless.

As the French proverb goes: "It is not enough to love; one must say it."

At the end of the day, I crawl into bed tired, ready for the distraction of a novel or a movie, but first Stella demands my undivided attention. She curls into me, licking my hands, my face. If I'm stroking her with one hand, she uses her paws to let me know that I must use my other hand has well. And then, once she has the all of me, she reaches out to my wife, pawing at her arms, drawing her in, insisting for the good of everyone everywhere that we take the time to really love, fully, with both hands.

Our children are born with this wisdom as well, of course, living, breathing reminders that if love doesn't come first, then maybe it isn't love at all. I think, however, that we too often don't heed their message, especially as they move beyond the first months of life. We start to develop agendas for them, expecting them to walk and talk and toilet and dress themselves and go off to a good college, ignoring the greater wisdom they come into our lives to impart. There are times when it's annoying or inconvenient, but they are not just trying to get our attention: they are seeking to express their love and they are insisting that you express yours as well, with both hands.

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