Affection, Love, and Dogs

Posted: 2011/08/28 in Concepts, Words
Tags: , ,

I was talking to a wise friend of mine the other day about love, and I mentioned the famous quote, “May I someday grow to be the person my dog thinks I am!”’

My friend said, “That’s not really love.”

Anyone who has ever gained the affection of a dog (it’s not hard) knows what we mean. You come home from a totally rotten day, and here s/he comes, tongue hanging out between barks, spinning the occasional circle, tail destroying everything in its path. But here’s the deal. Your rotten day could have included choices that are slowly ruining your life and turning you into a monster.

Your dog has shown you affection, and affection is a wonderful thing. It’s an element of love, because it grabs us and lifts us out of our circumstances and our failings, and sometimes that’s just what we need. Like the love I write about, it’s unconditional.

But unlike love, affection does not concern itself with what’s best for us.

It’s not that the dog lacks courage or devotion. That same dog might stay with you to wake you in a fire rather than save itself, and grieve terribly when you don’t come home. But dogs can’t see the bigger picture—that you’ve not come home because your earlier misdeeds in happy days gone by have finally landed you in jail, the hospital, or worse.

But people can see the bigger picture, if we let them. And if they love us, they can sit us down for a hard conversation in between those displays of affection. That’s what my wise (and affectionate) friend was getting at.

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