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Champ, Beau, Cassie, Miss Emmie, Kelly

Just the other day I read a post on Face Book by a pretty young woman who said, “I miss having a Valentine. I don’t like being alone.” And then there is the example of Charlie Brown and the little red-headed girl – always just out of reach.

Valentine’s Day is second only to Christmas in its potential for depression. Everybody is looking for the Other, that missing half of themselves that will complete them and usher in a Golden Age of happiness and contentment. Or, so they say.

I must admit my forays into valentinehood have not been all that successful. I was married once for about six years and followed that with a few select relationships afterwards. But these relationships never lasted. I was a clumsy student in the art of love.

In contrast the time I spent with each of my individual dogs was measured in lifetimes – from puppyhood to death. In the process I learned a lot about how to love and be loved. In fact, if I had had my dogs earlier in my life I would have been a better wife and mother. Here are a few of the lessons Champ, Beauregard, Cassie, Emmie and Kelly taught me.

Be loyal: this is the ‘for better or worse’ part. My dogs stuck by me when I was sick, broke, depressed or having a bad hair day. As long as we were together they were satisfied.

Be patient: no matter how badly they wanted to go for a walk, or chase the ball or get a treat, they knew how to wait until I was ready. They trusted me to take care of them.

Be yourself: dogs never pretend to be anything but what they are. No pretense, no games, no surprises.

Be grateful: just adopt a dog from the shelter and you have a friend for life. They appreciate what they have and show it.

Be open: dogs are ready for any adventure. Just open the car door or get out the leash and they’re with you no questions asked.

Be quiet: a dog knows how to listen when you’re feeling bad or need a hug. No words are necessary. They can absorb that sadness and give you back peace.

Be happy: dogs are naturally optimistic and happy. The depressed and neurotic ones have become that way because of their owners.

My canine companions taught me responsibility, compassion and loyalty. I’m still trying to live up to the examples they gave me. So this year my valentine is for them.