Years ago (yes way pre-Richard) I was dating this rather cool guy...and then he opened his mouth and said "Dogs don't have feelings." He wasn't joking. In less than a moment he went from being cool guy that I was really excited about dating to cold hearted ignoramus who I wasn't about to waste a moment on teaching the intense and rich love between humans and pets. I just know, lucky for Richard, he was quickly x'd off my "cool guy to date" list.
As I write this, I would like to make note that my loyal Beagle Lilly is sitting a few feet away and staring at me. She often does, because, I am her human and she loves me. Sometimes it's a little eerie to feel her eyes lurking at a distance and have that feeling come over me that I'm being watched, but I look over and there she is, staring, as if she paid good money for this performance and she doesn't want to miss a beat. That's love.
Let me tell you about Lilly. Lilly is the younger of the two Beagles. She is a female through and through. Recently, she learned that when I'm on the phone, there is actually a person on the other end; and I'm on the phone a lot. She's emotional and she's stubborn, and she likes to talk on the phone now that she's discovered this new social outlet available to her. So last night my mother called from 3000 miles away, and Lilly nudged the phone with her tail wagging and her eyes wide with exciteable pleading, "I want to talk! I want to talk!" My mother, being the compliant grandmother, spoke lovingly to her granddog on the telephone until Lilly was fully satisfied and appeased by the sound of grandma's voice, and then distracted into wanting to know who might be coming down the hallway. That's Lilly.
Lilly sports a tattoo in her left ear because when she came to me, she had been used for scientific experimentation at a research lab and was little more than a number. Her voice box was cut out, her ear tattooed, and for almost two years she knew little outside the metal pen within the cement walls of the secured and gated borders that she shared with several other Beagles. I quickly learned this truth when she became entranced over the sound of the birds chirping in my back yard. I realized she had never seen a bird before.
The first three days after I brought Lilly home, she paced, and she paced, and she paced with anxiety that I had never before witnessed. She wouldn't eat and she wouldn't drink, and so I hand fed her ice chips while she cowered as far back in her crate as possible in between her bouts of pacing. When she would finally eat from her bowl, she would grab one piece of dry food and run down the hall with it, protecting that piece of dry dog food for dear life. She had been, after all, in a kennel with several other research Beagles. I don't know how dire their circumstances were, but watching her with that one treasured piece of dog food as though it were her last, left me knowing that I could only guess how bad it must have been. Now Bailey, my older Beagle, would just look at her in the beginning like "I like to eat the whole bowl of food. Why doesn't she like to eat the whole bowl of food? Hmmm....maybe I should just squeeze on over here and finish up the laaaast of these morsels in her bowl....well will ya look at that! She left a lot of food there for me!" And then I would scream "Bailey! Get OUT of LILLY'S DISH!" Eventually, Lilly learned that her bowl was all for her, and Bailey learned that his bowl was all for him (not both bowls), and they respect that they each get an equal amount to eat; because dogs do know when one dog gets more than the other. That's a fact not up for debate.
Once Lilly realized she was safe in my home, she had the temerity to exclaim that she would be sleeping on my bed at night. Little did she know (or care), that I don't allow dogs on my bed. If this is a repeat, I apologize, but after 18 jumps up onto the bed, one after the other, with me continuously putting her down, telling her "No Bed!" and thinking I would be darned if a dog was going to out stubborn the most stubborn girl I know...me!" Lilly won. I secretly admire that I have met my match. Although she used to sleep with her head on the pillow next to me, now, because she is nosey and social and I have a new and wonderful dog loving roommate, Lilly sleeps on the foot of the bed so as not to miss any excitement happening in the hallway when my roommate comes home.
When I first got Bailey, my good friend Kirsten had met him at the tarmac at the San Francisco Airport with some 200 other animals. They had all come in from Hurricane Katrina. I was going to foster Bailey for two weeks....how many years ago was that? The first six months, Bailey would have obvious nightmares and make motions like he was fiercely dog paddling, trying to keep his head above water. After he learned that he was safe at home, his nightmares eventually subsided. He also learned that he preferred the couch in the living room to his dog bed next to my bed. I don't like dogs on the couch, for dog hair work clothes related purposes etc., but Bailey....well, he's getting old and the couch is probably much softer than his bed, and he's been such a good boy. So Bailey sleeps on the couch; which takes me back to dogs not having feelings.
Dogs not only have feelings, they have feelings that can relate on a level to humans with every sense of their being, from non-verbal communication, to the scent of stress hormones when we are upset, to all the things that humans in our narcissistic busy lives don't pick up on from other humans. And this isn't only dogs, this is the part of the animal kingdom inclusive of every animal that we form a bond with that isn't too busy punching a clock to notice what really matters.
I had a rough night last night. I tossed and turned, and coughed and cried. I had a headache that left me in fear that I was going to end up in emergency with a brain aneurysm. I hugged the toilet, to no avail. I took Tylenol and Ibuprofin, and coughed some more. I fell asleep and woke up with a lemon honey lozenge stuck to the inside of my cheek. I could have choked on it. But when I opened my eyes this morning, there was Lilly, not at the foot of the bed as she most recently prefers, but sitting so close to my side that there was no room for air in between, staring down at me in her usual way, only this time with her little forehead crinkled with immense worry projecting from every corner of her little eyes. As I turned my head to her and weakly said "Mornin' Lilly" in a barely audible shaky voice, Lilly pushed her face closer with obvious relief, and ever so gently kissed my cheek.
I sat up in bed with my throbbing head in my hands, and as I looked down to my side, there was Bailey, not on the couch as he prefers, but fast asleep in his dog bed, ever so loyally guarding his post.
Always Be Kind To The Animals,
They Know More Than We Think.
Sweet Dreams And Always GOOD Dreams,