Let’s Talk About Hard Things: Do you love your dog more than people in your life?
My now ex-husband used to say all the time, “I think you love Gunny more than me.” I would reply, “that’s not true. It’s different.” It wasn’t different. I lied. I didn’t think it was okay to say, “you’re right. I do.” It also seemed a heartless thing to say. The truth is that I loved Gunny more than any human or non-human being I have ever known, before or since. I probably love him more than I will ever love anyone in my life. I’m good with that. I feel so fortunate to have felt that depth of love, the kind that fills your soul. I think I’m lucky to have EVER felt that.
As we grow up, we all usually come to understand that it is not “okay” to love our dogs, cats, horses, etc. more than our parents, family, or children. No one says it out loud. But you know. You just know that if you said out loud that you love your dog more, people would gasp! “That’s not right! That’s not how it’s supposed to be! That’s not – wait for it – NORMAL!”
Love is love. You love who you love, how you love them, with the intensity that you love them. Those are matters of the heart, not the mind. There are people who feel it’s wrong to love people of the same gender, and people who think it is wrong to love non-human animals more than people. Those people definitely shouldn’t do it if they think it’s wrong. But you know what? It’s no one’s business WHO YOU LOVE or “how much” you love them. For goodness sake, it’s AWESOME to love madly in a world where hate and judgment seem to be carrying the day, rather than love.
What could be more normal than loving a being who thinks the sun rises and sets on you? For whom you are the world. Who stays by your side when people have gone. Tell me where is the harm in loving the being who does that?
Loving people can be hard. They do things that hurt our feelings. They abandon us. They disappoint us. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t love them anyway, but sometimes it is challenging. Our dogs rarely do those things. So they’re easier to love. We can grow from that love just as much as we can grow from navigating difficult moments with the humans who challenge us to keep loving them despite the hurtful things they sometimes do.
Please remember to give as good as you get from your dog. Be worthy of that unconditional love. Don’t just hug them, kiss them, and say “I love you.” Commit to helping them have a good and interesting life. Talk to them every day about what’s happening in your shared life. Include them in your plans when you can. Help them learn new things, stay intellectually stimulated and physically well.
I learned a lot from my dogs and a lot from other people. Both have made me cry for days, weeks, and on occasion, years. Love who you love. Do it fiercely with your whole heart. You don’t have to compare. Nor do you have to apologize. To anyone. Ever. For loving.
Author of The Endless Path