Is Your Dog Really A Faithful Companion?

Dogs come in all shapes and sizes. They also come in all personalities and temperaments. But then so do people. Part of the magnificence of the human-animal relationship is when these two personalities mesh together into something greater. We all have dreamt of this relationship. We celebrate it in stories and movies from Ol' Yeller, to Rin Tin Tin to Lassie. But for us to celebrate something so widely, it can then be assumed that it is special and therefore not commonplace. If that is the case, what is really going on with the relationships of the 80 million dogs in the US? (Source: APPA)

 Shot from the 1950s television series, 'The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin.' (Photo: Globe Photos, Inc.)

Shot from the 1950s television series, 'The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin.' (Photo: Globe Photos, Inc.)

When we characterize most dogs, we use the term "Man's Best Friend." We symbolize it with the image of a boy and his dog, bound together by a bond like no other. We picture in our heads the ever present canine, be it the courageous guardian, the vigilant farm dog, or the comforting companion. But is this picture reality? How many of these 80 million dogs are actually a constant presence in our lives? I don't think many... and it's not the fault of the dogs...

Today we Americans have lots of relationships. We have relationships with our loved ones, families, jobs and even our phones. All require our attention. And with every new demand our dogs are pushed farther down the line. Think about it for a minute. How many times a day do you look at your dog? How many times a day do you touch your dog? How many time a day do you engage with your dog? Your dog is supposed to be your best friend, but how often are they just in the background?

 Hachiko - the dog who waited...

Hachiko - the dog who waited...

We describe the American dream as a "white picket fence, 2.5 kids,... and a dog." For too many Americans, dogs are just that, part of the description. They are living, breathing piece of furniture. To be seen but not heard. To be there when we need to smile, a hug, or a laugh. To babysit our kids and make cute photos for Instagram. But how often are they actually our companions? Our best friends?

The difference between the Ol' Yeller, Rin Tin Tin, and Lassie we all dream about, and the dog we actually have is simple - Engagement. The dog we all picture in our hearts and in our minds is a dog we are engaged with. We say it's name with joy. We gaze at them with awe. But do we do that with our own dogs? Are we eager for the next moment with them or are we just complacent they will always be there in the background?

We've bred dogs for tens of thousands of years to be our faithful companions. It wasn't until more recent times that dogs became an expected staple of the family. Nowadays "every boy needs a dog." But is that true? Does every boy have time for a dog? Does every boy want a dog? Most importantly, is every boy faithful enough for a dog?Y

 Journey the New Guinea Singing Dog happy to play our "silly obedience games."

Journey the New Guinea Singing Dog happy to play our "silly obedience games."

When someone tells me they don't have time for a dog, I want to give them a trophy and throw confetti in the air, because that person gets it. That person knows that a dog will not be the center of their world and they, the human, will not be a faithful companion. The failure of a dog to not be a humans companion is not on the dog, it is on the person. As I mentioned above, we sculpted dogs to be our most versatile companion. Every breed varies in some way, but all have one thing in common and that is their infallible ability to bond with people. A dog will love a person without exception of race, sex, education, income or beauty. It is the human's failure to take that perfect love for granted.

So when you look at your dog, ask yourself if you're your dog's faithful companion. Look deep down and see if you can insert the two of you into one of those movies or stories. If you examine your relationship and find it lacking, it's not too late. No matter your dog's age, you can celebrate your dog's perfect love for you. You can learn how to engage in new ways with your dog and bridge the gap other relationships have created. 

Your dog is faithfully waiting...