Welcome your dog’s love with open arms

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The dog training world is replete with practices that do not always consider the dog’s point of view. For example, we are often told that we should ignore our dogs when we come through the door, walk right past as if they aren’t there. Apparently this has something to do with teaching them to calm down. But how does this impact the dog? We are the center of our dogs’ universe. We are their all! So when we walk in through that door, their world lights up and they are expressing it. How do they feel when their expression of such profound love is totally ignored by us?

I recently lost my beloved husband Uttam, as well as my older dog Nishi. As fate might have it, only shortly thereafter my country, India, went into a complete lock down. So it was just me and my younger dog Cheeru for several months. I had suddenly gone from a home full of love and laughter to one with the deafening silence of loss. Cheeru became my everything. She kept me sane and alive during the saddest part of my life. So now she is my all: she has become the center of my universe in the way we are for our dogs.

Now that pandemic restrictions have eased up, I do step out, but the outside world is full of triggers for me. Every corner of this city is one where I have memories with my Uttam. Every challenging, funny or interesting situation I am in, I am reminded that I cannot share it with Uttam. It makes me eager to return home, to the comfort of Cheeru’s presence, which grounds me. I cannot wait to see that cute face when I open the door and am flooded with a warm mix of love, gratitude and relief. I get down on my knees, smile and tell Cheeru I missed her so much. She, too, says that in her own way. We share a moment where we feel that love right in our bones.

I now know what it feels like to greet someone of another species who is the center of my world. How cruel and unnatural if she ignored me entirely, which is what we are told to do to our dogs. Love is meant to be felt and reciprocated — it feels good. What sense does it make to ignore affection? Who does it benefit? Don’t we have dogs so that we can feel this love? I understand that some of us do not want our dogs to jump up and down or jump on us as part of their greeting. I don’t either. Cheeru is mildly arthritic and we have marble flooring which can damage the joints of jumping dogs. There are always ways to manage the situation: I deal with this by having a carpet in the greeting area so that when I come in I simply sit on the floor so she does not have to jump. I remain calm while I express my love so she does not get overly excitable, but we still share the most warm reunion. Greeting my dog, acknowledging her intense love, and having a chance to express mine are essential to me.

A word of wisdom from a grieving widow and dog-mum: don’t ignore your dog’s love. You’ll regret it. Give in to love. Love is the only thing that cuts through the pain life subjects us to. Let yourself feel love in moments like where our dog brings all the warmth of our home, right up to the door to greet us.

Note: This post was originally published on NPR’s Radio Pet Lady Network.  

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