We stepped out of the mid-day sunshine and into the small town tavern. The place smelled like a stale keg, reminiscent of many fine college parties. Having adjusted to the bar’s cavern lighting, we stooped to pet the two dogs wriggling and circling our knees.
The dogs were opposites. One, a cute little critter would tuck comfortably in the folded arm of an elderly lady. The other one, Shadow, was a big lunk of love. An 80 pound lab mix with a head the size of a blue ribbon watermellon, Shadow was as mellow and sweet as sweet potato pie. Her owner was also in the bar and was clearly enamored with his big girl.
“Oh yeah, she’s a good one. Two years old and they don’t come any better. Lost her once for 3 weeks when she went snooping. Picked up by some travelers and I had to drive over the divide to Helena to get her. Sure was happy to see her again.”
I like that. I like when people love their dogs and overlook the temporary inconveniences that occur when an animal owns their heart. I like people who swallow their annoyance when dogs misbehave, and accept responsibility for not properly training their pet. I like when people put their animals first, and themselves second.
And I like dogs. I like big, floppy dogs. I like young and exuberant mutts that exude pure joy. I like fragile, arthritic dogs who relish a cool nap on a hot day and who, when patted on the head, offer smiles so genuine I have to swallow hard to stop my eyes from tearing up and spilling down my cheeks.
My days would be purely mechanical and functional if my house weren’t filled with 3 big dogs. Those hairy, slobbery animals take over the couch and the bed and the kitchen and my heart. My animals remind me when it’s meal time, snack time, walk time and best of all, they remind me to be human.