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About 6 months ago my daughter, who is a lover of nature and all its creatures, announced to me that she and her fiancé were looking to get a dog. They approached this acquisition of a pet very scientifically with a lot of research and conversation with friends who were dog owners. Because of their lifestyle, which includes mountain climbing, hiking, snowshoeing, boating, and winter camping, it was important that they chose a dog that was up for all that kind of activity. I told her that I thought it was wise to keep all that in mind, but that in the end, they would end up choosing a dog that chose them, and that is precisely what happened.
They ended up with a Scottish Sheltie with whom they fell in love at first sight and who fell in love with them just as quickly. Fortunately, he is up for all the things they love to do, being a rugged little fellow who belongs to a breed meant to handle itself in the unforgiving Scottish Highlands. He is also almost frighteningly smart, a quality shared by all the sheepdogs in existence. He is perfect and they are obsessed with him in all the best ways.
Since the fabulous Bogart came into my daughter's life, I have been regaled with stories about his charm and many accomplishments, called when advice was needed, and needed to be comforting when he faced a trip to the vet for a serious problem. As far as I can tell, it is exactly like being a grandmother except that I don't have a grandson, I have a grandpuppy. I like it.
I have told my daughter that this experience is excellent preparation for parenthood. She loves him beyond words, fusses over him constantly, is heartbroken when he has a problem or is sick or in pain, and generally makes his needs more important than her own. Parenthood. When he was having a problem with an infected tooth and was in terrible pain, she was beside herself. Her devotion to him is absolute as is his to her. He adores her. It is an entirely symbiotic obsession. When she was upset about his health and called me for comfort she let it slip that she wondered if her love for him was perhaps, a little over the top. I don't think so and I said as much to her. Love is love. Mutual love and devotion is wonderful. Bogart has brought such joy and happiness into her life that it is impossible to imagine it having any negative side. He is hers and she is his. The fact that she has him in her life makes her happy and by extension, makes me happy as well.
I told her that how she feels about Bogart is like what I feel for her and her brothers, with all the joy and pain that comes with loving someone with such a strong sense of protective devotion. You love to see them healthy and happy and you suffer if they are not. I also told her that on the up side, Her beloved pup will never become a sulky teenager and hate her for a couple of years, blame her for anything bad in his life, or resent her for anything she ever does. He will also not grow up and leave home and go far away so that she rarely sees him.
“Ok, Mom,” she said. “I get the point.”
I really wasn't trying to make her feel guilty, I was simply pointing out the irrefutable fact that there is a definite advantage to one's relationship with a great dog over one's relationship with one's children, even great ones. You raise your children to live their own lives. Your dog is a different story. As a parent, your feelings for your children don't change, if you are lucky, but it is inevitable that our children become adults and their feelings evolve in a different way. My kids still love me, but when they were little they couldn't imagine life without me. Now, they manage quite well. It is as it should be, but hard on a parent who is just as obsessed and devoted as he or she ever was. But a good dog is yours as long as it lives. It loves you unconditionally, never holds a grudge, won't end up complaining to its spouse about the Christmas it didn't get that expensive toy it asked for, and never ends up on a psychiatrist's couch talking about you. Dogs are the best thing that ever happened to human beings. They might even be far better than people can ever hope to be. We can learn a lot from dogs. Dogs can teach us about unconditional love, devotion, loyalty, and forgiveness. Dogs rock.
Love is a funny thing and should always be treasured. Receiving love is wonderful, but the greatest gift is giving love freely to anyone who receives it in kind. Dogs seem to have figured that out far better than we have. I love my grandpuppy and love hearing about him from my daughter. When I go online and video chat with my daughter he licks my face on the screen. I think he loves me. Lucky me.
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