Dogs Are the Best Teachers of Love

They are also cheaper than therapy.

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My Zen Master

I gave my heart to this guy almost 15 years ago. He had whispered into my life as a spontaneous idea. I had been out on a lung-clearing run, still mourning about my ex-boyfriend’s betrayal. The thick clouds of pain briefly parted for a moment when I heard:

“Get a dog.”

I hadn’t wanted a dog for so many years because I knew the responsibility was huge. I knew having a dog meant I couldn’t stay at a friend’s house overnight because I drank too much. I couldn’t take long trips. Walking a dog a few times a day would take too much of my precious time.

But the idea had settled in me that this was the perfect time in my life to have a dog. Although I had a lot of mental, spiritual and emotional healing to do, I figured a dog was a nice companion on this journey.

I drove to the Tupelo Flea Market. My uncle had taken my aunt and I there the month before, and I had seen several breeders and not-so-nice kennels with several dogs. I immediately walked to the back of the market where I had seen a cute shih-tzu the month before. They didn’t have shih-tzus this month.

Saddened, I continued to walk around, finding two shih-tzu puppies in a kennel with a Pomeranian. One of the shih-tzus woke up and walked towards a small dish of water. He stopped quickly to play with a ball, then proceeded to quench his thirst.

My heart melted.

“Can I see this one,” I asked the breeder. She picked up the puppy and handed him to me. I held him in my arms and he nuzzled into my elbow.

I stroked his ears. “Can I take you home and spoil you?”

“That’s what breeders like to hear,” she said.

I never knew two pounds could awaken so much love in me.

Colburn has been my lifeline. He’s adapted to any and every situation he’s encountered — some well and some not-so-well. He’s endured a long move from Mississippi to Florida, a few short moves around Florida, and another long move from Florida to Philadelphia.

My morning walks with him have been soothing. I make a point never to take a cellphone with me because I don’t want to disturb our connection. He knows that I’m fully attentive to him when we are outside.

Dogs are fascinated with the simplest things. Colburn got excited over a plastic bag early one morning. He could sit by the window and stare all day. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do the same?

One of my former colleagues said to me, “Dogs are the best teachers of love.” No matter how angry I might be at him, or how angry he might be with me, he seems to forget it all when I come home. He sometimes brings me one of his toys, but mostly he likes to squeak it in delight.

He’s cheaper than a therapist.

Last summer, he passed out and stopped breathing. I don’t think I ever felt so much fear and terror in my life. I held him, seemingly lifeless, thinking this was the end. Thankfully, he had recovered his breath.

He now has a heart condition, which requires me to give him medicine three times a day. His medication costs me almost $100 a month. It’s a huge cost because I took a huge pay cut to move back to the Northeast.

I know Colburn won’t be with me forever, but I want to give him the quality of life that he has given me. He’s cheaper than a therapist.

I don’t mind that he wakes me up at 3:30 every morning. I will cater to his every whim because I promised I would spoil him. But to be honest, a dog can’t be spoiled if he gives you so much love in return. And he has.

Written by

Former TV person, current college professor and media researcher. Ironman triathlete, meditation teacher and yoga instructor.

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