The Laughter Within

It’s no secret that dogs have a magical effect on their owners and other people around them. For a long time, dogs have lived alongside humans. And for a long time, humans have loved the companionship and friendship of their four legged friends. I know that I cherished all thirteen and a half year with my first dog, Mahoghany, and I have already started forging a life-long friendship with my parent’s new dog, Teak. To play with Teak, to tease him with the frisbee, to hide around the corner so that he has to seek me out, to wrap him up in my comforter and watch him squirm: these are the things that bring out the laughter within, the laughter that comes from that special place, deep inside all of us. I don’t know what it is about the physiology of dogs that enables them to communicate with us on such a primal level. No formal spoken language is required, no written word. Just a smile, a pat on the back, and a real excitement for life. You can’t make this stuff up with dogs- they know, almost innately, when you are feeling sad or down, and they know when you’re really excited. And when you show your true emotions to them and you simply just are who you are, they just stick by your side no matter what. It’s funny to me that I’m talking this way about dogs, because when I think about it, these are the things that we should all be saying about our family and our friends. To have a mutual respect and love for each other, to love each other no matter what the mood, to always be at each other’s side: these things seem so simple when said, but they are so much harder to give. I know only a handful of people in this world that exhibit these qualities, certainly not including myself. I read the introduction to Gordon Livingston’s book How to Love last night, and one of several passages I underlined for myself was this one on page xvii: “[...] the fundamental requirement for any satisfying relationship is a reciprocal to see the world as others see it, to be able to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.” He goes on to describe many more “fundamental requirements,” but this one is specifically directed at me. Empathy is such an important characteristic that isn’t taught enough. Be it in a conversation, a situation, or a relationship, I am not so great at it. But, as Dr. Livingston puts it on page xvii, “that is why it is important to cultivate in ourselves those traits of character that we value in others.” Dogs do it so well. Without the chaos, the drama, and the petty stupidity of adolescence. Perhaps it is because their time on this Earth is even ore limited than ours and they want to take life by the horns right off the bat without wasting any time. Now there’s another lesson that we can learn from our canine friends.

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