They say that the benefit of living with a dog is that you get to experience unconditional love. The dog is happy to see you, every single time you come home. And I mean every time. You can be gone for five minutes or five days. The dog will always act like she hasn’t seen you in a year. If you want to feel like a rock star every time you walk through the door, get a dog.
Such devotion inspires a desire to emulate it. How would my husband feel if I met him at the door with the enthusiastic greeting of our dog every time he came home? Really loved or really worried that it was time for me to go back on meds. Probably the later. Which is why I practice unconditional love on my dog. She’s already showing me how it’s done, plus she can’t call the psychiatrist if my show of love overwhelms her.
The trick to loving unconditionally is in dealing with all the possible conditions. It is much easier to love your cute little poodle when she snuggles with you on the couch than when she barfs in your bed at three in the morning. You wanted to prove you could love unconditionally, so here you go: an opportunity to prove you can love even in the face of barf. I get out of bed in the middle of the night to wipe up barf, knowing I will have to wash the down comforter yet again, and try not to yell about it. I’m pretty sure unconditional love doesn’t yell, ever.
This is why love and compassion are so challenging. We are supposed to feel love, to be capable of compassion, even when things get ugly, messy, smelly, or uncomfortable. Which brings me to the key question.
If it’s so hard, why bother?
Because we have a choice.
[referring to Sigmund Freud’s comment] …there is only love and illness, and if you do not love you will get ill. —Sophy Burnham, For Writers Only
As someone who feels ill when I am angry, this makes perfect sense to me. I can be mad at the dog for barfing (and feel ill as a result) or I can love her despite the barf (and put the comforter in the washing machine*). Love seems the better choice. It’s unfortunate that sometimes it’s so hard.
*Actually, I have to put the comforter in the washing machine no matter what. Dog barf is icky.