It’s my dog Herman’s 5th birthday. We started out the day going to the park bright and early to celebrate.
…Okay, I didn’t actually remember it was his birthday until halfway through our walk, but he doesn’t need to know that. 🙂
What can I say about Herman that I haven’t already said?
He has shown me that dog really is (wo)man’s best friend. As an introverted person, I live pretty quietly, mostly spending my time outside of work with my dog and my boyfriend. I largely keep in touch with out-of-town friends and family virtually, sharing with them the witty comments, the pretty pictures, the funny stories. But Herman and I experience real daily life together, moment after moment after moment. We understand each other, communicate in our own private language, have our own well-honed rhythm and routine, none of which could ever be translated into a blog post or posted on Facebook or captured in a photograph. My “real life” is largely experienced alongside, and with, Herman. The sleepy mornings stumbling into the kitchen for a scoop of dog food and a fresh bowl of water. The lazy hours spent watching TV or browsing the web while he finds a comfortable position curled in the crevice of my elbow, knee, or back. The quiet moments standing in the yard reading the mail while he explores. The shared act–primal to both canines and humans–of walking: in the park, through the cemetery, along city streets, wherever. The emotions he sees that few others ever do – boredom, anger, sadness. The begrudging laughter as I brush away my tears or stress when he beckons me to play.
I may sometimes grumble when he begs me to chase him (and his toy squirrel) around the house after a long day at work, or when I’m running late and he’s taking his sweet time on our morning walk. But the truth is, even when I’m not in the mood for those responsibilities, they keep me moving, keep me positive, give meaning to my life. His happiness makes me happy. And it is out of my love for Herman that I feel heightened compassion toward other animals, all animals. Much to my amazement, I have learned that traits, behaviors, and emotions I’d assumed were distinctly “human” are not.
Objectively, I think it’s probably a bit psychologically unhealthy to care so much about a dog. But in this regard, I am firmly in the “better to have loved and lost, than never loved at all” camp. Maybe during my time with Herman, my life will grow fuller with marriage and children. I would love for him to be a part of those changes. But whatever our future holds, he has been such a blessing to me. I delighted in imagining friendships with animals as a child, but it wasn’t until I was an adult that I discovered such friendships could be real.