I used to be a cat person (gosh, that's a tough sentence to type). In my defense, I was young and didn't know any better. All I knew was that I saw kittens, they were cute, and I wanted them. I'm not saying I hate cats by any means -- I don't. But as I grew older, I started to realize how much better dogs are as lifelong companions and friends.
Sure, they're more work than cats. Sure, they make bigger messes (and bigger poops). Sure, they eat more.
But they also have bigger hearts. They just want to love and be loved. And really, what is easier than that in this life? What other species wants love and only love, nothing in return? Not many.
As I write this, my 50-pound Golden Retriever mix is on my lap, her head resting on one arm, making typing difficult. But I can't bring myself to move her. Of the other two dogs, one is on the couch watching the other eat a rawhide. It's a rare moment of peace is this three-dog household, a moment I am sure will end any second. But it's also a moment I can take to reflect and let my heart fill up with love for these animals who choose to love me each and every single day.
Here are seven reasons dogs make the best companions in life.
1. Dogs live to love and please us. My mom told me a story the other day about how the vet had to poke my labradoodle with a needle about six times before getting it in the right spot. And the whole time, my dog just sat there with his head in my mom's lap, staring up at her, waiting for it to be over. My mom asked the vet why dogs are like this, why they will endure pain without fighting it. And he said something that broke her heart. He said they just want to please people, even if that means sitting through pain. And really, it's true. All dogs want is for their human to be happy and throw the ball. And when their human is not happy, they won't throw the ball. Therefore, dogs make it their mission to make their humans happy.
2. They seem to have sixth sense when it comes to compassion and understanding. Dogs can listen without judging. OK, so I don't sit and talk to my dogs. Not about serious matters at least. But when I'm upset, they know. They curl up next to me and rest their head on my chest, staring at me with their big, innocent eyes, radiating love. Something about that is so powerful to me. While they can't speak, they know their humans so well and can pick it up when something isn't right. And more than that, they try to fix whatever is wrong, the best they know how.
3. They can cuddle better than anyone. I'd rather cuddle with my dog than my boyfriend most of the time. Every night before bed she climbs up and lies on my chest. She would sleep like that if I would let her. Instead, she sleeps right on my feet, which cannot be comfortable. But it comes back to love. She loves her humans, and wants to be as close to them as possible even when it means it's less comfortable for her. My 70-pound lab mix will do the same. He climbs above my head and curls around my shoulders when I am sitting on a chair. He has no idea that this isn't normal. Again, he just wants to be close. Dogs are the best cuddlers, period.
4. Their reaction when you come home from work is priceless. My favorite part of the day is getting home and letting my dogs out of their kennels. Based on their reaction alone, you would think I have been gone for weeks. They react the same way whether I am gone 30 minutes or six hours, whining and wiggling their little butts. Nothing feels better than knowing someone loves you that much. Dogs spend so much of their lives waiting for us to come home to them, and having faith that we will. That's pretty incredible.
5. In addition to loving their humans, they love each other. My boyfriend and I got one dog back in May. Then we added another in July. And finally, we adopted a third in November. While there was some hesitation and possessiveness at first, they have all adjusted and get along. They love one another the same way they love us. They will fall asleep head-to-head, or simply lie on the couch together. Even through the occasional squabble, they return to loving each other. It's just how dogs are wired, with humans and each other.
6. They are loyal through and through. I truly believe this. I have read so many stories about dogs that protect their humans until the end. And even at the end, they refuse to leave their human's side. In addition to their loyalty, they are protective. One time I was at home for the weekend and had my dogs. My dad was trying to be helpful and let the lab mix of the kennel. However, the dog didn't recognize my dad and immediately jumped on the bed shielding me and barking. I had owned him a few weeks at this point. Not even one month, and already he was protecting me from what he thought was danger. That's pretty amazing.
7. Dogs don't discriminate. I've read stories about dogs who take a liking to the homeless, dogs who know when their owner is using drugs, dogs who are mistreated but continue to love and trust humans. It's almost sad to think about the fact that a dog can be treated badly but will come back for more because he is so eager to please. Yet at the same time, dogs can save lives through their companionship. When most humans would not strike up a friendship with a homeless man, a dog doesn't care. Like I said in the beginning, dogs just want to love and be loved. It doesn't matter how or from whom, and that's pretty awe-inspiring.
I'll cap this off with my absolute favorite dog-related quote of all time, which comes from Marley and Me:
"A dog has no use for fancy cars, big homes, or designer clothes. A water logged stick will do just fine. A dog doesn't care if you're rich or poor, clever or dull, smart or dumb. Give him your heart and he'll give you his. How many people can you say that about? How many people can make you feel rare and pure and special? How many people can make you feel extraordinary?"