It's in the wag of their tail, the look in their eyes, the way they claim you as their own. You have been invited to become a part of their 'pack', and if you're lucky, they'll even let you become the 'pack leader'.
When a dog loves you, they SHOW you everyday.
In a multitude of wet, sloppy kisses. Every night when they curl up close to you in bed, even when they have the entire king-sized bed to stretch out on. Each time you turn down the driveway and a cacophony of happy yelps, barks and howls greet you and when you open the front door, they clamor for your attention, tails and doggie circles going at lightning speed.
When a dog loves you, they can't help but show it, it is what they were built and designed for. There is no pretense, no games, no lies. Their loyalty never wanes, not with years, not with routine, not with your whole slew of imperfections. Their willingness to protect you and even die for you never falters. Their companionship is a constant, through days and nights of mundane living, through hours of trial, sorrow and illness. No words, no grand gestures need be made, for dogs are natural intuitives, always picking up on your energy, always reading your moods. Dogs are natural healers and have a knack for knowing when to lick up your tears and when to lay across your lap and provide you with comfort.
When a dog loves you, you are the center of their universe and you accept this rare gift, however egocentric it may seem. For in a dog's eyes, you are always beautiful, always right, always exciting and always 'their person'. You know when you hear the contented sigh of your dog, that all is well in his world.
When a dog loves you, they place their lives in your hands. They trust you to feed and shelter them and provide them with the care and love that every dog deserves but too few in this world receive. They trust that when it is time, you will do the right thing by them, even when that thing will break your heart. You see, a dog's life on earth is short and I believe it is this way because they fulfill their missions way more quickly than humans do. They become perfected in ways that only pure creatures can.
When YOU love a dog. . .
When you love a dog, your heart expands in ways you never thought possible. You experience joy and healing and friendship in a way that you don't experience with other humans.
When you love a dog, he or she becomes a part of your family forever. You become mom or dad and you come to accept life as a dog owner. That means you deal with the teething that takes place on your shoes or your arms. The toilet training that appears on your carpets and floors in their puppy years and the messes that appear when they are senior citizens. The crying and whining under the table during dinner and at the foot of the bed when it's bedtime (for spoiled doggies). The fleas and ticks during hot weather, the trauma around nail cutting, the wet nose marks on your windows when they go for a ride in the car and the dog hair that gets. . .well, everywhere.
When you love a dog and the years pass, you begin to wonder how much longer you'll have. You dread the day, you try to mentally prepare but there's no way to be ready for. . .the day. When you love a dog and the vet says it's cancer and they have days or weeks left, you go into denial. They look good, they're still eating, look at the fight in their eyes, they're not ready to go, not yet! You plead and bargain with God and you spend nights with them on the bathroom floor because that's the coolest place in the house and the easiest place to clean up messes. You call in sick and spend time at their side.
And there comes a moment when you know that if you love him, you have to let him go. And you make the call, set up the appointment and make what every dog wants for their last meal-steak and ice cream. And you sleep together as a family one last time and on the way to the Vet, you lay with him on the car floor and whisper memories into his ear and remind him that he was loved every day of his life and you thank him.
When you love a dog, you're there for him when he takes his last breath and you tell him you love him and kiss him on the nose and hold him one last time and tell him to run towards grandma. And when your hubby has to leave the room because it's too much, you stay alone with him for a few moments more and sing "Love at Home" and "God Be With You Til We Meet Again" and "Aloha 'Oe" because that's what you would do for any family member you're sending home again. And you whisper "manuia lou malaga, boy" and you don't look back because your heart is already broken and you can't fathom leaving him there alone in a cold doctor's office because you're his mom.
When you love a dog and he dies, you are devastated but more so, you are grateful and privileged that he chose you to share his life with. And you collect his ashes and put him next to your family photos and never forget him and look forward to the day when you'll meet again, amidst a flurry of barks, tail wagging and doggy kisses. Until then, you keep him in your heart.
Manuia Lou Malaga, Ma'aboy. We love you and we will miss you dearly.
Ma'aboy Ulima: September 28, 2000-May 15, 2013