In the state between sleep and awake, I let the blanket cover over my face, keeping out the threat of reality and a new day outside my bed, like blackout curtains keeping out the sun. I contemplated what may be waiting for me. It had not been good as of late, and I wanted to stay in bed and ignore it all. Then I heard the reminder that I was needed and my self pity would have to be closed into a tiny container and placed under the bed for another time.
My girl needed me. Not the human girl I had loved and was now forbidden to see, but the four-legged girl who stirred in the corner of the bedroom. The one who couldn’t understand why her little human girl no longer came to see her. The one who checked the empty pink bedroom every day, and her eyes always asked me if she would ever see her two-legged puppy again. I didn’t know how I could make my sick dog understand something I did not understand myself. But she felt my pain. She always did. And I needed that.
Almost a month had gone by since our relationship with the human girl had been severed, and just a few, excruciatingly long days had passed since we found out our fur baby had a cancer that could not be cured. Losing both my girls… well, getting out of bed each day now required me to muster all the strength I could. These girls loved each other and needed each other, and they might never see each other again.
But I needed to shower the girl I still had with as much love as I could during the time we had left together. So I lifted the blanket.
I very recently read How Dogs Love: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain by Gregory Berns. There are so many reasons for me to recommend the book, but the following excerpt captured perfectly for me the essence of the entire book.
The defining trait of dogs, therefore, is their interspecies social intelligence, an ability to intuit what humans and other animals are thinking. Wolves do this to hunt prey. But dogs evolved their social intelligence into living with other species instead of eating them. Dogs’ great social intelligence means that they probably have a high capacity for empathy. More than intuiting what we think, dogs may also feel what we feel. Dogs have emotional intelligence. Just like people, if dogs can be happy, then surely they can be sad and lonely.
Throughout the Dog Project, I had been struck by how perfectly dogs and humans complemented each other. Humans, even with our powerful brains and capacity for abstract thought, are still slaves to our emotions, which dogs pick up on and resonate with. And the most powerful emotion of all is love. Despite the complexities of human relationships, the fundamental attribute of love is empathy. To love, and be loved, is to feel what another feels and have that returned. It really is that simple… People become intensely attached to their pets… This is why it hurts so much when we lose them.