By Aubrey Beardsley
If there’s one thing that is always spoken of in the same sentence as dogs, it’s the notion of unconditional love.
So I have started to wonder what that might mean. And I think there are some problems with this concept.
Does it mean if a dog is cruelly mistreated that it still “loves” the perpetrator? Because if love is without condition, then that must be so? Well, I don’t think so. Fear is not love. And love is not dependency. And I think dogs are capable of all these things.
Does it mean that a dog loves everyone, that it has no choice in the matter? Well, it’s true some people may say that about me, but even I am choosy as to the lucky recipient of an Aubretisation. I think dogs are underestimated here too. We do judge actually, sometimes very astutely indeed.
And are dogs the only ones capable of unconditional love? Of that I am also uncertain. And in fact what I think is really important is that dogs give humans a chance to feel unconditional love. Not all humans mind you, just the good ones.
But the one thing about all this that is definitely right, is that dogs are capable of love. In fact, scientists are now saying it has been the secret to our success.
Love me, love my dog.
Everyone knows the saying, love me, love my dog. But it holds a lot more meaning than you might think. You see, we now know that dogs had as much a role in domesticating humans as humans did in domesticating dogs. We domesticated ourselves! And, in the process, dogs and humans became a team. And the humans who loved dogs, they were the ones that got all sorts of advantages, not least of which was our love. If you want to hitch your wagon to a winning ride, naturally I would say it has to be a dog lover! Because dog lovers understand team work.
To play for love.
You might say that play is the language of love. It holds as true for humans as it does for dogs. And you can see it in the park … humans who are there playing with their dogs, not just tossing a ball, but really interacting. And then there are the humans who are on their phones or wandering off into the distance, ignoring their dog. It’s not just about the walk, it’s about the walk with you. And in fact really good play can do more than anything to build a happy and loving relationship between our two species.
Love in idleness.
The one thing that is often underestimated is the importance of just being together. I love just sitting with Human, reading or working or whatever it is … but together. Sometimes I get a treat for no reason other than being me. And so we be … together.
Love is kind.
Confidence is not about some sort of cockiness. And I really wonder when people talk about dogs as “getting too big for their boots,” “above themselves,” spoilt, etc etc. These are really problems of the lesser human species, but they are not things faced by dogs. You can spoil something only if it is capable of malice. But confidence in a dog is about confidence in the humans and dogs around you. And when I’m confident, I’m content. Fear can never bring that contentment. Fear is not love. But confidence is certainly the stuff of love.
And so I find myself in a “lovelock”. I’m locked in, and Human is locked in. So I guess you could say that is unconditional love. But it’s earned.
Curiously, Albert Camus was not a dog, at least not as far as I know, and yet he got it: “I know of only one duty, and that is to love.”