Growing up I was never much for pets. I was not the type of child who coveted stuffed animals or played with them past three years of age. I was far too interested in reading and my visual pursuits to bother with the entire animal kingdom. They were animals after all, and not very conversational. As I grew up I would look upon pet crazy neighbors and friends (with the rare exception of Judy's dog Max perhaps) and not know what to think of their devotion. I certainly did not share it. Then came Doodle.
When Doodle came home with me he was six weeks old and just weaned from his mother. I had seen him at every stage of development, and here he was, this tiny squirmy thing. Those first weeks were difficult, as he was plucked from his swarm of squirmy noisy brothers and sisters and plopped into my quiet life. The very first night he cried and cried. I did all I knew how to do to comfort this furry little thing. I cuddled him like a baby, sang little Doodle songs and rubbed his little head until he mercifully fell asleep. It wasn't long (three days actually...Ris won the bet) until I broke my first rule of dog ownership and allowed him to sleep at my feet on my bed. It seemed to calm him down, and before I would turn out the lights I would rub his head until he fell asleep. And so started the ritual. He has not gone without his head rub one day in this house. He immediately falls asleep every time, even if I just rub his head while he lays on my lap. For the longest time I thought I continued to do this to comfort him, but recently realized it actually comforts me as much or maybe even more. I now fall asleep rubbing Doodle's head, a little lesson in comfort and devotion I learned from my dog.
I have witnessed how his body relaxes. I know when I hit that sweet spot rubbing his belly or scratching his back because he flicks his tongue a certain way. I have also been witness to Doodle in a dream state. He twitches, his feet move, and his eyes move and flutter under his lids. He sometimes growls or makes noises, and sometimes even wags his tail. What can he be seeing and reacting to in his dream? I figure he dreams in images since he does not have words to describe visual sensation, but most of dreaming is images for me as a human too. One day while watching this is dawned on me that although he is classified as an animal, very little separates us really as spirits inhabiting form. He breathes, he eats, he dreams, etc. So now I at last understand why animals are important to humans. Not to be dominated or abused for what they lack, but to be companions in this world. To be respected for what unites us on a spiritual level. I get it.
So this is what I have learned from Doodle. It has forced me to start to reexamine my relationship with animals from an entirely different perspective. All of this started by a little squirmy thing that came into my house 17 months ago. I sure have been blessed and I am grateful for my little companion. "So handsome, so smart, such a good dog." :)