What kind of creature loves unconditionally, I wonder?
Who is so loyal that they come back, time and time again, even after they’ve been beaten?
How can a creature have such a capacity to love?
Am I always this lazy when it comes to love? Is there an exception? How can I find that sort of strength? That sort of courage? That sort of loyalty?
Looking down at the creature in my arms, I want so desperately to know.
How can I love wholeheartedly like him?
They have such short lives you know. Dogs, I mean. Did you know that seven is the age when a dog is considered a senior? Seven. If your dog lives to be fifteen, it’s had a long life.
Fifteen years. Just fifteen.
Fifteen years of being wholly dedicated.
That seems like a long time to a young person, and it seems like a quick snooze for an elderly one. Even for the middle-aged, it seems like a handful of days can go by as quickly as fifteen years.
But for a dog?
That’s an entire lifetime.
Fifteen years to us, but an entire lifetime to them. One lifetime completely dedicated to loyalty. To friendship. To companionship.
Honestly, we’re so naive in giving them so little credit. How many years does the average marriage last?
Yet we think we’re the more evolved species?
I look down into Sammy’s eyes, his eyes that are completely focused on mine, and I know:
My love isn’t nearly as evolved as his.
Even in the wake of his own death, Sammy only has eyes for me. He isn’t focused on the doctor setting up the IV. He’s not focused on the nurse who’s has the instruments of his end in her hand. He’s not looking at my dad.
Sammy only has his eyes on me.
How could he have eyes for anyone else? Sammy’s bed is my bed. My room is his room. My house is his house. When I go to the store, I come back with treats and bones and, sometimes, even a new toy. Even at the store, I think of him. When his face nudges my hand, I pet him without having to think twice. It’s natural to me. When I get home, his paws push against my legs, begging me for a moment. Without hesitation, it’s his.
How could I ever deny such a good creature? Something so fiercely bent toward affection? A creature so open about who he loves?
Not even now.
Not even when there are tears in my eyes. Not even when I’m about to burst into sobs. Not even when I know I’ll have to say goodbye.
I can’t look away from him either.
I can’t. Not when he thinks the world of me. If I disappear now, what kind of world am I showing him?
Dark. Careless. Loveless.
And that isn’t the world he’s shown me these past fifteen years. It’s not the kind of world Sammy knows. Not the world he thinks exists.
For Sammy, I am the world.
And I am full of love for him.
If there’s anything I can give him in his last few breaths, I want it to be this:
Affirmation. Knowing that he is loved. That his love didn’t go to waste. That he does have a companion, even in the midst of death.
That he isn’t alone.
Isn’t that what love is about?
Sammy doesn’t speak like I do. Doesn’t process things like I do. Doesn’t have a lot of the same interests or worries that I do. And none of that matters to either of us.
We lift each other up.
That’s what love is like.
He doesn’t love me because he expects me to return the favor. He doesn’t love me just when I’m in a good mood. He doesn’t love me because it pays the bills.
Sammy loves me because he wants to love me.
Sammy loves me because he wants to love.
Sammy loves me because he’s so full of love that he can’t stop himself.
That’s how a dog loves. And, for a dog, love is all that matters. Not lifting himself up, not like how a human normally loves, but lifting others up, because that’s what love does.
Dogs are so underrated.
Sammy is so underrated.
It’s hard to see his graying and brown muzzle through my tears now. I wipe at my eyes, but it doesn’t seem to help. They’re still there. They form fast. Incessantly.
And why wouldn’t they?
I’m about to say goodbye to my best friend. My most loyal companion.
I’m about to say goodbye to a lifetime of love.
Sammy whines. He does that a lot lately. His tumor is huge on his side, and inoperable. It prevents him from playing. From jumping up to greet me when I get home. Blocking him from one of his favorite moments of love.
His arthritis has caused him to fall several times this morning. In fact, that and the tumor have caused his hip to break. When he yelped in the kitchen, I felt my heart shatter on the floor at the same time as his hip.
I love Sammy.
But I don’t want him to suffer anymore.
His tongue shoots out, licking my hand.
Even in his last moments, his only thoughts are for me. Are only about my well-being. He only cares about how I’m doing.
I’ve been thinking about it since Sammy was diagnosed with the tumor. Since he’s been giving so much and taking even less than usual lately.
If two people give each other a hundred and ten percent, how could either feel incomplete?
But, if either were to give less than that, how badly would they be hurt?
I don’t think dogs have the capacity to give a hundred and ten percent. That’s too low a number. If there is a number to quantify it, it has to be well over a thousand percent. Why else would their lives be so short?
Sammy’s nose snuggles right into my palm. I scratch behind his ear and he closes his eyes, completely content.
“Now is good.”
My words are thick with tears, with despair. But I don’t want the moment to slip away. I don’t want Sammy’s last moment to be about how I was crying. About how his person needed him. About how his beloved wept over him.
I want his last moment to be about how great it is to be loved.
About how his person loves him.
About how his beloved wished all the best parts of love on him.
And in that state, his eyes closed in serenity, with the knowledge that he was loved and that I was grateful to him for all his love for me…
Sammy went to sleep.
Is there a creature that can love as greatly as a dog?
Surely the answer is yes.
Why would dogs love human beings so much if we didn’t have the capacity to love just as fully in return?
Am I always lazy when it comes to love?
Or am I just lazy when it comes to loving those without four legs?