By Aubrey Beardsley
Well, it’s another Valentine’s Day.
It makes sense. Valentine’s Day comes around every year. And that makes sense because Valentine’s Day really is all about the seasons. You may remember my post from last year, Valentine’s Day is for the Birds, where I talked about how the traditions are really mostly to do with the mating season of birds.
As Chaucer wrote in his Parliament of Foules (fowls, by the way), “For this was on seynt Volantynys day; When euery bryd comyth there to chese his make”. Translated (because Chaucer didn’t have predictive text), “For this was sent on Valentine’s day; When every bird comes there to choose his match.” And today, on this Valentine’s Day, two beautiful red-breasted robins were popping about in our garden, delighting in the various array of treats we have collected for them. I love robins, and I love the messages that robins bring. Valentine’s Day really is for the birds. In fact, “to valentine” means to greet with song, like the birds, during match-making season.
To me, that’s what Valentine’s Day is all about. It’s about greeting. It doesn’t matter if you’re single or duplex, unharnessed or yoked, monad or comonad, Valentine’s Day is for everyone. It is all about greetings.
I love to greet people on a walk, some I know, some I have just met. Just a couple of days ago, a little boy was going in his front gate and I stopped on the footpath and wiggled a big smile at him. And he giggled and came back to pat me. Human told him that I thought he was very special. And the little boy was so happy. Now that is a Valentine. Paying attention to someone other than yourself.
Greeting someone is all about showing someone your attention, your regard, and your respect. Dogs are great at this, we have such incredible skills of empathy. My message to humans, who aren’t always so good at this, is that the secret is in responding. Just like Andie’s dad tells Duckie in Pretty in Pink, you can’t command someone to love you. And just like Ace the dog shows in this same scene, you have to stop, listen, and pay attention.
And this regard is also very relevant to the relationship between humans and dogs. Training and learning is not just about commands. In fact, I would say it’s not even about commands. It’s about responding to each other. Be polite. Say hello. After all, we dogs see humans as the original companion animals!
So today, greet someone for Valentine’s. And be that dog!