When we got back from our trip to Florida on Friday, we received an enthusiastic welcome from our dog, Shasta. She’s the sweetest pet you’ll ever see – we leave for half an hour and she reacts as if we’ve been gone for days; so you can imagine the boundless affection she showed us for the rest of the weekend. She followed us around the house, sat by us, and did everything she could to let us know that we’d been missed. If you have a pet, then it’s safe to assume you probably love it. Most pet owners do love their pets; the animals become one of the family. If you treat your pet well, it will treat you well. If you show it kindness, it will give back to you tenfold. We love our pets unconditionally, and it isn’t hard, but why? I’d say it’s because they don’t walk up and say, “I love you” on their way to their food bowl. They don’t look at us in the morning, say, “Hi,” and leave. (Unless you have a cat. The cat might do that. The cat might not even deign to say ‘hi,’ but that is for every cat to decide for itself.) We don’t love Shasta because she’s an aesthetically pleasing dog with red-gold fur and doe’s eyes. We love her because she shows us that she loves us, every day, without ceasing. When we wake up in the morning, she runs to us and pushes her head against our legs. When we pet her, she wraps her paws around our hands like she’s hugging us. We know she loves us, and not because she tells us in words; but because she shows us. She’s constantly demonstrating her love, and not replacing it with flimsy words.
I think one of the biggest mistakes I make as a human being is looking at someone and feeling, subconsciously, that, ‘Yeah, I love them’ – and believing it’s enough. Because you’re related to another human, or you call another human your friend, doesn’t actually mean you love them. It means you’re tied to them in some way, but love can go stale. It’s a loaf of bread, fresh-baked, but it doesn’t stay fresh forever. As Ursula K. Leguin put it,
“Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.”
So when I wake up in the morning, the best thing I can do is to remind myself – there’s love that needs remade.