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.
3 thoughts on “Welcome your dog’s love with open arms”
Dear Sindhoor, many years ago, you helped us, then first-time dog parents, understand our boy Buttons. You showed us how he likes to be patted on the rump and does not like to be touched around the tummy; you taught us how to take him on a walk without it turning into a tug of war. You showed us how to watch and learn the cues he is sending. It helped us immensely. Buttons, then less than a year old, ia now 8+. We adopted a second boy Scooby who is now 7 and in parenting him too, we’ve always remembered your lessons.
Since then, we’ve followed your journey and Nishi’s on social media with gratitude and interest. So this post comes as a shock. We knew about Nishi’s passing but to hear about the loss of your husband is even more painful. We are so very sorry and send you lots of love and prayers. So glad you have Cheeru. Hug her close and here is hoping the wounds will begin to heal.
Much, much love, Gowri and Sreeram
Thank you for your heartfelt and mindful dedication to dogs. After learning about you in the National Geographic magazine that was devoted to dogs, I looked up your online info and videos. I very rarely am compelled to correspond to anyone after reading what they wrote. Your obvious affection for all dogs, but especially the “streeties”, is very moving. The way you described coming home to your sweet Cheeru, really got to me. Because I adore dogs ,I admit to watching the “dog whisperer” :Cesar Milan. However, I have always disagreed with his advice to ignore your dog when you get home so essentially they will remain calm. And to not let them get distracted with sniffing while walking. No way! Life is too short. Reading about the loss of perhaps your two closest family members: Uttam and Nishi, brought tears to my eyes. My sincere condolences. This may sound corny, but what I have read and seen of yours today has touched me spiritually. I look forward to reading more. Thank you again.
Thank you for your kind words. I also have a book titled Dog Knows : Learning how to learn from dogs. That may be of interest to you too. Would love to hear what you think of it!