Nailing down this country’s divorce rate can be a bit like wrestling in the mud. Some statisticians say roughly one out of every two marriages will end in divorce. Other sources put the number somewhere around one in three.
Neither statistic is very encouraging in my book, but I’ve learned over the past week that there’s one kind of love that just goes on forever. Get a dog and you will experience unconditional love for as long as the animal is around.
Pitt, our youngest daughter, has been sick at home the past couple days. My wife, Becky, and I checked on her each morning to make a determination about whether she should go to school or stay home.
I check on her at lunchtime and her mother showers her with attention and advice all evening long.
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But we aren’t her favorite caretaker. She wants Riley. Our dog has this innate sense that lets him know when something’s wrong. He jumps on her bed and stretches out beside her. He’s not his normal bombastic self. He doesn’t try to lick her to death or play. He just lays there beside her.
When I checked on her Monday night, the dog was laying there, his paws draped across her legs and his chin resting between them. He didn’t even pick up his head when I walked in the room.
On Tuesday, my father paid me a surprise visit at work. His purpose? To introduce me to his new puppy, Charlie. Daddy’s had the dog for a couple months now, but I hadn’t had the chance to see the dog until this week. My father was like a new daddy, ready to show off his newest child when we walked out the back door of my office to his truck.
The dog was standing in the passenger seat looking out the window. You could see his tail wagging as we approached the truck. When my father moved out of the way to let me see the dog, Charlie jumped in the back and hid behind the seat.
It took my father’s voice to bring him back into view. Already, Charlie and my father are building this remarkable bond. According to my father, Charlie has learned what’s happening when my dad starts his bedtime ritual. The dog trots to the back of the house, to my father’s room, and jumps on the bed to await Daddy’s arrival.
Charlie is still a puppy with a lot of growing left to do, so I’m not sure how long my father will let that kind of sleeping arrangement go on. But for now, my father appreciates the attention and the dog is happy sticking close to his person. They are becoming like two peas in a pod.
Dogs aren’t like people in so many good ways. They don’t hold grudges. They don’t let small dust ups force major upheaval. On Tuesday, as Becky, Pitt and I sat in the living room, Riley wanted to play. He started barking and talking his talk. I didn’t want the noise, so I called him down. It didn’t help. When I raised my voice a few decibels, he flinched and got quiet.
But he didn’t seek the advice of a divorce lawyer. Instead, he crawled on his belly over to where I was sitting. It was so cute, I couldn’t do anything but scratch him behind the ears. Riley had gotten the message that he needed to be quiet. But he let me know we were still friends and that he had moved on.
Our relationship intact, the rest of the night was uneventful.
Whatever the divorce rate is in this country, perhaps we ought to consider the dog’s approach to relationships. Play when you can. Live large. Take care of people when they are sick. Hang out with your people as much as you can. Let bygones be bygones.
It seems to work for the dogs.