Dogs weren’t part of my life growing up. Pets, in general, weren’t a “thing” I had much exposure to. My grandparents had a cat, and that was it for pets I encountered. The cat was there to keep the rat population on the farm under control. I never saw anyone being affectionate with her.
Flash forward to today. I live with two cats and I adore the hell out of them. But while I love dogs, I don’t have much experience with them and I know very little about their behavior patterns.
Plus, while I’ll happily spend hours playing and cuddling when one is around, the next day I will be stuffed up and wheezy. It is worth it, but not something I’d be able to survive with more regularity. My time spent around dogs is wonderful but infrequent.
This past weekend, my friends and I celebrated an early Thanksgiving at the house of some friends. I hadn’t been to these particular friends’ home in quite a while. They have two dogs; an elderly vizsla named Grover and a new 10-week old pug puppy named Howard.
I’ve known Grover his entire life. In the past, he used to jump all over every newcomer as soon as they walked in the door. When I arrived this past weekend, I noticed he didn’t feel the need to do this. He came to the door to greet me, but there was no jumping or much of a reaction of any kind. He noted my presence and allowed me to enter the house. It struck me as odd behavior for him, but I didn’t dwell on it.
I made my way through the entryway and to the kitchen at the back of the house. Those folks who arrived before me had congregated there. After discarding my belongings I made the rounds and greeted everyone.
At some point, I realized Grover was following me, his butt cheek pressed against my leg everywhere I went.
I looked down at him, and he was looking at me. When he saw he had my attention, his tail (or, rather, nub) started wagging.
He was waiting for me to say hi to him. I hadn’t yet greeted Grover.
As I said, I don’t have much experience with dogs. Thus, it hadn’t occurred to me that Grover would remember who I was.
I felt awful.
Of course, Grover knows me. He and I have hung out during weekend getaways at least once a year. We love curling up and cuddling together. He’ll sit next to me when there’s space on a couch, his head in my lap and my arm around him. He’ll follow me around sometimes, looking for hugs and the kisses I enjoy dropping on the top of his head. There have been a few times when we’ve dozed off together.
I wouldn’t assume a small child would remember a day spent together many months earlier. Nor did it occur to me that Grover might know who I was or harbor any particular fondness towards me. He’s never behaved in a different way towards me than towards others before.
Until the other day, that is.
In the past, a group converging on his home would overstimulate him. He would jump up and run around trying to get his bearings. He would greet every person many times.
But now, he’s older. There is a lot of white on the fur of his face. And he’s slowing down.
He remembers me as someone who will cuddle him and be calm with him. He knows I return to him the unconditional love he offers others.
When he saw me the other day, he followed me around and waited patiently for my attention. He ignored the doorbell. He didn’t care when other people arrived. He just wanted me.
When I looked down at him and he looked up at me, I realized what was going on and that he was trying to communicate with me. I immediately dropped to my knees and put my arms around him. He leaned against me and draped his head over my shoulder. I kissed him on the top of his head.
Upon arriving home later, I looked through my photos of the day and realized there were none of Grover. It made me sad.
And then I laughed, remembering the reason why. There weren’t any pictures of Grover because Grover had his ass velcroed against me all day.
It wouldn’t have made for a very good photo. I’ll try to do better the next time I see him.
And next time, I’ll remember that a dog might remember me with as much love as I remember them.
Was I stuffed up and wheezy the whole next day? Absolutely. Was it worth it?