I saw two dogs today. The first was dazzling – a small terrier with ombre fur that bled from chocolate on the muzzle to Farrah Fawcett blonde on her chest. I had never seen a terrier that particular shade before, so I stopped my car to ask the woman walking her the breed. “Cairn terrier,” she answered and we chatted amiably about the little dog and her beauty before bidding goodbye.
The second was a retriever – gold and longhaired. She accompanied a woman in a pale blue sweater who held her by a lead and color with tinkling jingle bells. As the woman asked for help at the copy counter, the dog grabbed its leash and shook it, making the bells ring in a cascading chorus. I smiled and I stopped to snap a picture.
Yesterday, my uncle and grandmother came by the house and paused by the kitchen window to observe my two pugs dance across the pool cover in their daily game of tag. Soon my relatives were laughing, as the pugs almost seemed to be. Last night I fell on the floor with the same two pugs, collapsing into giggles as they kissed my face and barraged me with toys and bones and a tangle of doglegs, tails and tongues.
I think about the smiles of the men earlier this week, who took the time to check out Ghanny and his other elderly companions and cast a warm glow on our day and the faces of the passersby who seemed a little happier after reading my pug bumper stickers. Books have been written about the role of dogs in modern life – the prominence we now give them. I read an article about an author who recently wrote about the death of two family members and his dog. The death of his dog he felt acutely. When asked why this was so, he answered something to the effect that they are the only ones who truly see us as we are, all our facets.
I’m not sure about that. It may be true. It is certainly interesting to ponder. It got me considering why I love dogs and these smiles and conversations came readily to mind. My pugs, like my license plate that bears their name, elicit smiles. They start conversations. They help me connect. They bring me out of myself to seeing others.
Some people worry because those others aren’t always human, but I think its good to start small. It’s a sign of evolution of our souls when we can feel for something other than ourselves. I think of Spock in one of the original Star Trek episodes discovering that a rock-like object was actually a sentient being. By learning to acknowledge another living creature as important we learn to recognize ourselves. We begin to connect the dots and see each other.
And, my dogs get me talking – stopping cars, rolling down windows and darting from vehicles to talk to people. Without my pugs I never would have met my friend Joan. To me, my dogs are all about connection – to life, to joy, to something beyond myself. It is this connection, I believe, that is the gateway to love.