The unique love you feel for a dog that is not yours
Have you ever been walking down the street , minding your own business, when suddenly, out of nowhere, an actual ray of sunshine crosses your path? The feeling is unparalleled. The unbridled excitement that you're met with when interacting with a dog is enough to melt anyone's heart. Big or small, dogs are balls of positive energy and even I, a self-proclaimed "cat person" can't help but perk up when I'm visited by one of these Earth-bound angles.
Living in a large city, I usually hear people tell stories about the strangers they've shared meaningful eye contact with and fell in love with for a few stops on the subway. However, I'd argue that this same phenomenon is even more common with dogs and the people they pick out who somehow seem to need them the most. Think about this... Whether you live in a city or a small town, you cross paths with a bunch of people every single day. Now maybe you're a social butterfly and get a charge out of person-to-person interaction, but that is not always the case for us introverts out there. On several occasions I've tried to shoot someone a smile and not had it returned, waved at someone I know across the way only to go unnoticed, and yes, even been victim to a one-sided public transportation love affair. The emotional blow that I sustain from those experiences are always brief, yet devastating.
Dogs are not vain like humans are. They don't care about race or gender, politics or sexuality... they don't care how much money you make or what you do for work. Dogs have this crazy ability to see you for who you really are and fall in love with you for it all in the fraction of a second. People always say that dogs are the best judges of character with good reason. So the next time one of those little guys tugs their owner's arm out of the socket just to run over to you, take it as a high compliment.
To be honest, I wasn't really tuned in on this love until I started dog-sitting for a family friend. The little guy's name is Winston and he's a yellow lab puppy with more energy than I've ever had in my entire life. On our first meeting, he ran over to the front door to greet me, as if I were a member of his own family. His tail was wagging, he jumped up at me trying to lick my face, and didn't bark once. After weeks of walks, tug-of-war tournaments, training sessions, car rides, and hikes, Winston now follows me around the house and plops down to sleep at my feet no matter where I end up. I've even been told by his mother that he looks for me when I leave for the day.
However, I'm not the only one who's been on the receiving end of Winston's exuberant attention. In one instance we were out walking around his neighborhood and he heard voices behind us. He suddenly turned around, walked back a few steps and sat down, staring at an older couple who was walking a few yards behind us, and refused to move until they caught up. After a few compliments on his good behavior and "devastating good looks", Winston was formally introduced to his new admirers. I learned that they've lived in the neighborhood for a long time and had a black lab themselves for a number of years. They'd just had to put her down a few months back and said that Winston reminded them a lot of her when she was a puppy. Winston and I still say hi to them when we're out for our walks.
On one of our hiking escapades, Winston and I crossed paths with a mother and her young son. While Winston was very enthusiastic about the prospect of making a new friend, the little boy seemed more weary. When he didn't come right over to play with him, Winston got confused and barked, which made the boy duck behind his mother. I think the little dog picked up on how nervous the boy was, because next Winston sat down, tilted his head and whimpered a little as if to say "I'm sorry. Look, I just wanted to play! That's all." The boy's mother took him by the hand, I crouched down next to Winston and between the two of us, a petting was orchestrated. The little boy reached out and felt Winston's floppy little puppy ears and his soft little puppy head and then Winston nudged and licked his hand. There was no nipping, which is common because Winston is currently teething. It was all pure love. The boy laughed and played with Winston's ears some more before we parted ways.
I don't know how dogs do it, but they can somehow pick up on someone's energy. They know as soon as they see you what you deserve from them, and because they're truly selfless creatures, they're willing to give that to you. Their nature dictates that they see the value in other creatures and then they respect that until something proves different. And even then, they forgive and forget easily. Once I was particularly fed up with Winston for pulling me down a hill on a hike. I was covered in mud, bruised, scraped, and slightly bloody. I wanted nothing more than to drop him off with his family so I could go home for a long, hot, shower. Because of that, I kept him on a rather short leash for the rest of the trek. We were walking through the woods and he stopped suddenly. I turned to try to coax him, but he wouldn't move. I was so frustrated that I started crying. Winston walked forward, sat on my feet and looked up at me, pawing at my scraped knee. I smiled at him and bent down to give him a pat on the head. Then we continued on our walk. There was an understanding there. We were still friends and all was forgiven.
I think that it's best to live life like a dog. They're optimistic by nature and only gravitate toward the people that they feel a positive energy from. And they'll love you regardless of your creed, gender, background, or beliefs. If you're a good person at the core, dogs know. And they love you for it.