Love is ...
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I wanted to do a blog about love. I considered looking at some of the great love stories and what we can learn from them about this rich subject. Or, from my view as a romance writer, there was the option of looking at how the expression of romance has changed over the years, if at all. I was pondering which theme I would explore, when my dogs made up my mind for me.
We have two dogs. The neighbors who live behind us have four, including a large black poodle. Our two sets of dogs have a noisy relationship. Every morning, when we let our two pups out, they tear across the back lawn and greet their waiting buddies with what can only be described ironically as caterwauling. This hullabaloo of barking and intensive tail-wagging lasts about two minutes, and then my dogs have had their fill. Most of our neighbors’ dogs will trail off shortly after and also go about their business. But the black poodle will stay at the fence and look longingly at the disappearing shapes of our Bella and Charlie, barking sporadically for them to turn around again. He will do this long after they are back in the house. Some days I have to close our curtains briefly to imply, “Look, nobody’s home, ok? You’ve got to give it up now, Darling.”
One day, Bella refused to come in when I called her. She only ever does that for one reason: she’s spotted a rabbit and she’s digging at its burrow. She’s pretty single-minded that way. But, when I looked out across the yard, she was lying contentedly with her paws out in front of her, gnawing at a big, chunky bone. Only, I hadn’t given her one.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I started finding rawhide chewing bones, even fluffy duck-shaped chew toys — all near the back fence. The neighbors have no children who might have thrown these items over. And the adults had no reason to treat our dogs when they had four of their own to spoil. There was only one explanation. The bones and toys were gifts from a doggy heart. The black poodle, tall enough to reach its mouth over the chain-link fence, was dropping little offerings of love into our yard. Isn’t that the sweetest thing?
It got me thinking about the essence of love. It really is just throwing your heart out to someone with no guarantee of return. It is staring over a fence at the object of your affection and thinking, what can I do to make you happy? It is enjoying whatever the relationship offers, even if it’s just two minutes of tail-wagging bliss every day.
And the thing is, you don’t need romance to feel loved. It could take the form of a parent’s devotion, a friend’s loyalty, the cozy familiarity of a neighbor you’ve known forever. It could be small, in the shape of that colleague who always remembers your birthday, or eternal, in the way the universe wraps itself around you and offers you Life.
Wherever you find yourself in this moment, may there be an element of doggy simplicity in your experience of love. And if it’s not there, throw the metaphorical bone over the fence. It may never come back to you, but you will have made a difference to someone else. And that, after all, is what makes the world go round.