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There are times when, I swear, my dogs know how I feel about something before I even have time to process it. They're the first to celebrate in their own goofy, playful way when I'm excited (running around, finding toys, barking joyfully), and when I'm down, I'm never without a heavy head on my lap or a furry body sleeping on (not near — always on) my feet. For as much energy as they both have, my dogs just seem to know when I need to do nothing but lie in one place and snuggle with them.
And it's not just me they're in tune with: My dogs have an uncanny sense when it comes to knowing when anyone — friends, family, neighbors — is a bit fragile and needs some gentle love, and they're constantly happy to share their cuddles with people who need it. (Obviously, though, we always supervise the dogs when they are around children — even the most well-mannered, loving pets shouldn't be left on their own with kids.)
You know what makes my dogs pretty much the happiest canines in the world? Getting to lick a smidge of peanut butter off my fingers. Day made, just like that. For a dog, the most incredibly simple gestures of kindness seem to mean the world to them. Because of this, having a dog around is a constant reminder to be thankful for the little things.
And a dog will help you remember what's big and what's little. Dog lovers often talk about the unconditional love they get from their canines and for good reason. Your dog doesn't care if you lost your job, skipped a workout, were a jerk to your sister, got a terrible haircut or gained a few pounds. She doesn't care if you repeat your stories over and over, or even if you complain about the same dumb thing every day. As long as she can be with you (and, you know, you keep the meaty treats and kibble flowing), she'll be your very best friend. Always.
Because your dog loves you so much, she's happy to take the blame for certain things. When it comes to finding someone to point a finger at for certain uncivilized smells, for example, there's nothing like a dog. You can blame your dog all day for the results of your dicey breakfast burrito, and she won't care. (Of course, chances are decent that she'll rightfully earn her share of the blame now and again, too, but you kind of owe her that, right?)
Your dog can also be the perfect polite excuse for things you would rather not do. Find yourself stuck at a party that you desperately want to leave? Nobody can really argue with you when you say you've got to get home to feed the hounds. Same thing when you're invited to, say, your ex's out-of-town engagement party — if you don't have a dog sitter, you just can't make it, even though,of course, you'd love to be there.
Admit it: Making friends as an adult isn't always the easiest thing to do. You know what? It's scads easier when you've got a dog in tow. People who might normally pass right by you will often stop to pet your dog, giving you an opportunity to say hello and introduce your dog — and yourself. I know the majority of my neighbors, not because I delivered handmade brownies to their doors, but because they either came up to pet my dogs or because I walked over to play with theirs.
Dogs also create other social opportunities — there are all kinds of dog meet-ups, classes, yappy hours and more. Not only does having a dog get you in the door, but it's an automatic conversation starter — you don't have to feign interest in someone's shoes or the weather when you can dive right into talking about your shared canine interests!
It doesn't take a dog long to shake things off. If she trips over her feet and rolls in the dirt while chasing a ball, she gets back up, grabs that ball and has the best day ever. When a dog gets caught being naughty, she might look worried for a moment, but the second you show you've forgiven her, she's forgotten anything ever happened.
Dogs also have a remarkable ability to bounce back from scary things, the kind that take people longer to get over. My dog, Rudi, has seizures; they're terrifying for us and certainly not very pleasant for her, but just moments after every single one, she's ready to give me kisses and go play. I might still be shaken, but the moment she has her legs under her again, she's happy as a clam.
And dogs delight in life right to the very end. If you've ever had the honor of caring for a dog in her final days, you know she finds joy in all moments, always, up until that last breath, as long as she has you. And maybe some treats, too.
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