It never ceases to amaze me an animal’s capacity to love, and to do so unconditionally. The way they look at you with such honesty and sincerity in their eyes is unparalleled amongst us humans. Perhaps the combination of these behaviors is what makes them free from judgment of the world around them.
Anyone that knows me is aware of my near-obsession for canines. A passion for my furry friends led me to dog walking (http://www.libertywalkers.net) but even before that, my heart was full of love for “man’s best friend”. It didn’t matter what kind… Labrador, Dachshund, Poodle, Golden Retriever, Cocker Spaniel, Bulldog, etc… I adored ‘em all. Suffice it to say; long before I was ever a dog walker, I was a dog LOVER. I would accost people on the street and shower their dogs with affection before they even had time to give me permission. (These days, living in NYC, I always ask first.) One thing I’ve noticed almost universally is every dog’s ability to instinctively know I was “friend” not “foe.” Owners will commonly say to me, “That’s really weird. My dog isn’t normally so friendly toward strangers.” Actually, it’s not weird at all. Dogs know I want to be their buddy, and they, in turn, want to be mine regardless of what I look like, where I work or how much money I have in the bank. Dogs get what we humans don’t—accepting friendship without qualifying it is a true gift and blessing in life.
As humans, we are so distrustful. We assume everyone has an agenda and everyone wants something, and whatever they want, it can’t be good. Not true with our beloved tail-waggers. You want to pet them, awesome. You want to shower them with love, also awesome. You want to give them treats, even better. Dogs can instantly tell your intentions are good, and if so, all is okay in their world.
And the more I walk dogs, the more convinced I am in my beliefs. Take Bucky, for example:
Isn’t he gorgeous? Bucky is truly a gentle soul, who wants nothing more than to show you how much he cares (usually by pouncing on you and almost knocking you flat on the ground). When I was walking him the other week, I saw a man pushing a shopping cart who seemed to be ranting in a way that made me uncomfortable. I was trying to move to the other side of the street, but not Bucky. He wanted to go over and say hello. A few seconds later, someone in the neighborhood was talking to the man with the shopping cart as if it was all perfectly normal. In that moment, I knew I had misjudged him. He was possibly learning disabled or handicapped in some way, but he was certainly no threat to me or Bucky. But then… Bucky knew that already.
I was so ashamed of my behavior. How could I make such a snap judgment of someone? Me, who admittedly so often feels misunderstood herself… how could I turn around and do the same thing to someone else?
And then there are days when snap judgments are non-existent because I’m oblivious to the world around me. Let’s face it; there are times in NYC, we all tune out. We walk around in a daze, worrying about our lives or maybe something as inane as what we’re going to eat for dinner. In that moment, a canine companion can be the perfect alarm system to alert you to approaching danger. Meet Hercules a.k.a. “Boogie”:
I still can’t figure out how Boogie’s love for everyone and everything around him can be contained in his little body. He has boundless energy and enthusiasm and it’s so beautiful to see. That said, when Boogie backs away from someone or something, I know to get the hell out of its path. If Boogie doesn’t trust you, I know there’s something seriously wrong with you.
And then there’s my dog, Fenwick a.k.a. Wicksie Doodle:
Wicksie is no longer with us, but when he was, boy was he a hoot! He was gorgeous, and knew it. So much so, he didn’t need to bother with anyone or anything. He was content to watch the world, and had little desire to interact with it. He certainly didn’t judge… to judge, you have to care, and my darling pup was far too aloof for that. Oh, how I loved him nevertheless!
And I know there are naysayers like my friend Danny who claim, “What about a dog that doesn’t like a certain race of people—Asian, African American, Hispanic? They are obviously judging.” Well how did that happen? Human intervention, of course. No dog decides to dislike an entire race of people by accident. They were trained to do so. It comes down to this: left to their own devices, a dog can sniff you and know if they like you or don’t.
Which brings me to an important point: judgment versus opinion—there is a difference! Look, as free spirited as I can be, I’m not preaching we all love each other (though I wouldn’t mind if we did). My acting teacher, Matthew Corozine, used to say, “Not everyone is going to like you, and not everyone is going to get you.” Some people are simply not our “cup of tea.” But that’s your opinion. Someone else may meet the same person you didn’t vibe with and think he or she is absolutely divine. No need, however, to slap a judgment on the person: “That person is crazy,” or “What a loser,” or “What a geek.” Just chalk it up to different strokes for different folks and move on!
And I am giving this advice as much to myself as to anyone else out there, who might be reading this. It’s something worth striving for. Let the ultimate non-judgmental dog—Bella—whose best friend is an elephant, serve as inspiration to us all: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBtFTF2ii7U