When I come home from my work day, loaded down with purse water bottle, laptop bag, keys and whatever other detritus I scraped out of my car, I am always greeted by my dog. “Hi Lucy! Good dog.”
But the unloading of stuff, the offramping of bags and oh-yeah-i-forgot along with the inevitable dash for the bathroom always seems to take priority over my good dog.
“Greet the dog,” Chris reminds me. It is apparent that she suffers an sense of incompletion, her whole body wiggling and writhing, bumping her muzzle into me while I’m trying to get things situated. “She loves you.”
I must scratch her ears and receive her joy at my arrival. Chris is better at this whole ceremony, he delights in Lucy dog. He scratches her first and makes time for her. He gives her good love of scratches and attention.
There is a perfect metaphor here. I accept Lucy’s love with nonchalance, disregarding it and taking it for granted. He sees her love and raises it with a big dose of it back at her. The delight in her dog body with how he scratches and talks to her! It is glorious.
It is good to be loved. I do like to receive it. And I am learning more fully how it is even better to give love.
One of my favorite books talks of this canine relationship: “No one can give anyone else the gift of the idyll; only an animal can do so, because only animals were not expelled from Paradise. The love between dog and man is idyllic. It knows no conflicts, no hair-raising scenes;” ― Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The dog lets us love her. She loves us without expectation. I ignore her, and she still rejoices in my presence. But she will always and always be ready for us to give it back to her in whatever form we can muster.
I have dear friends that I do the same thing to, I can call them and share my discouragement and fears. They will telll me encouraging and appreciative things: “You are fantastic! You can do it!”
But I hang on to my doubts. Maybe they don’t mean it…maybe…not really…
There are times too, when I put down all my heavy stuff, and look right at my friends to see them. I can lay aside my doubts and insecurities and give to them what they really deserve.
A sincere, specific and true statement of appreciation can lay flat the walls of Jericho. For the recipient, whoever he or she may be, yes. But for me too…If I can craft such a gift, what a work of art and thing of beauty! To affect someone’s life and leave behind a precious touchstone that they are seen as they wish to be or didn’t know they could be.
It takes courage to express something like that. The revelation of self and values feels so naked.
What makes it magic is the cooperation of the other. Like a high five–“Don’t leave me hanging!”
There is always the big chance that the love I hope to express will be awkward or inappropriate or in some other way not right.
My dog does not judge. Good friends don’t either. The conflicts are not important, to call back to my book. To recieve love, but even more to give it back in my unique expression of it, that’s a life’s work.