The Love Of A Dog

Sometimes, it’s the love of a dog that keeps us going,
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<p>Heading to the Winter parade, 2015</p>

Heading to the Winter parade, 2015

“Does that thing live in your house?”

It was a blustery December day, and Henry and I were at the local Christmas parade in our small town. Floats of townspeople dressed as Santa and dancing teddy bears drifted by, tossing candy and sweets. Henry’s brown eyes were focused on the cookies flying toward us, my mittens fumbling to break open a bag to share with my best friend. The woman’s face was turned up in disgust at the sight of Henry sitting on the curb, slobber flying as he anxiously awaited his snack.

Although my only children are four-legged and furry, the mothering instinct kicked in. I wanted to read the woman the riot act for talking about Henry like he was some repulsive beast, but I pulled it together and managed an, “Of course” dripping with sarcasm.

Henry isn’t your average dog, it’s true. No mastiff is. At 3-years-old, he’s 160 pounds of fur, slobber, and paws — and he’s not done growing yet. In reality, when I walk him, he looks more like a small pony walking down the street instead of a dog.

Living with a mastiff certainly has its downfalls. We spend a lot of money on food and medicine. Instead of a dog bed, we had to buy a twin-size mattress for him to sleep on. His plate-size paws leave muddy paw prints on our living room carpet often enough to be aggravating. He sheds enough to fill the vacuum every other day, and it’s true that slobber coats more surfaces of our home than is probably hygienic at any given point.

Still, despite his couch-eating antic as a puppy, two destroyed pairs of shoes, a pierced can of Coca Cola spraying on the ceiling, and several embarrassing moments, I wouldn’t trade Henry for anything. What he’s taught me and what he gives to me far outweighs any monetary or space sacrifices.

Henry shows me undying, unconditional love and what it truly means. It doesn’t matter if I’m rocking a smoky eye and a red dress or my hole-y sweatpants from high school — he looks at me exactly the same. Those brown eyes piercing into mine tell me he sees me for who I am. The superficial stuff doesn’t matter to him.

On days I’m jumping around the house in joy over a sudden success, he’s right there with me, nipping at my arm, barking in glee, running around the house as fast as a mastiff possibly can in a modestly sized home.

On days I’m wallowing in darkness, the death of another pet, or just frustration at life getting the best of me, Henry’s there too. He’s there with his huge paws on my leg, his slobbery face in mine, to reassure me it will all be okay. When I look into his eyes on these days, I know nothing could make him love me any less. No matter how much of a failure I feel like, he’s always there, excited to see me, happy to spend time with me.

Henry shows me that sometimes love and life are about the small moments. I see his sheer glee at the first snow of the year as he gallops through the yard, flurries flying underneath his elk-like legs. I see his happiness as he jumps around in his $10 sprinkler I bought him last summer. I see his contentment sitting on the couch with the family with his zebra toy from his first Christmas. He’s happy as can be just watching a movie during a quiet night at home.

Life is hard — it’s no secret. There are days we ask ourselves why, days we feel alone, and days we feel like giving up. But sometimes, it’s the love of a dog that keeps us going, as silly as that sounds.

If you’re not a dog person, you might not understand. In fact, you might think it seems crazy. If you’ve never had that bond, looking at a dog, especially one as big as Henry, you probably see work, money, and frustration. You see all the sacrifices. You might ask, “Does that thing live in your house?”

But if you’ve ever experienced that almost indescribable bond, then you understand. You recognize the value of an unconditionally beautiful relationship. You see that the sacrifices are nothing compare to the benefits you reap. You see how on your darkest days, it’s those eyes, that comforting look, that paw in your hand that keeps you going.

The love of a dog isn’t free. It requires patience, time, and sometimes an acceptance of fur and slobber everywhere. Still, the love of a dog is one of the greatest gifts this life can give. It changes you, it makes you prioritize your life, and it shows you the value of a bond that is unconditional.

So yes, all 160 pounds and counting of Henry live in our tiny Cape Cod home. Yes, I sometimes sacrifice space on the couch for him. Yes, he eats a lot of food. But I wouldn’t have it any other way because the love I get in return outweighs all the rest... even Henry himself.

<p>Harry Potter for Halloween</p>

Harry Potter for Halloween

Lindsay Detwiler is a contemporary romance author and a high school English teacher. To learn more about her works and her life with Henry, visit her blog at http://www.lindsaydetwiler.com