I adopted a three year old dog from a local rescue eight weeks ago. “Lovey” is a Smooth Collie mixed with some German Shepherd mixed with some breed of hunting dog. In other words, we don’t really know her lineage. But that doesn’t matter. Lovey is one of the sweetest, most lovable dogs I’ve ever had in my family. In fact, Lovey is such an exceptional dog that the sometimes difficult transition period that I readied myself for never happened. Any time we introduce a new animal into our packs, we accept that the household harmony is going to be upset for a while. Often times there’s an adjustment period. There might be tiffs between dogs for ownership of toys and bones. Kitties will have to hiss and scratch in order to set straight who was in the family first. And the new member of the pack will have to be put in her place if she tries to take over the number one position next to mom. Sometimes these upsets get settled quickly. Sometimes the pack wrestles with their differences for weeks and months. There might even be cases where there can be no resolution to the fighting and disharmony in the pack. It’s at those times that we scratch our heads and wonder why we ever upset the harmony in the first place.
I was thrilled and relieved that I was not to face an angry animal mob when I brought Lovey home. There were a few hisses from the kitties, but for the most part, they accepted her as another animal in the pack. Charlotte, my five year old French Bulldog, accepted Lovey without incident. She first met Lovey when we picked her up at the rescue’s satellite center at the pet store. They sniffed each other and that was that. We walked out together. I put Charlotte into her car seat and Lovey into the back of the car. When I arrived home, Lovey followed Charlotte into the house and went to the water bowl to take a nice long drink. From that moment on, Lovey was enmeshed into the fine connective tissue of my pack.
As I watched Charlotte and Lovey interact over the next several weeks, I realized that they were living side by side. They didn’t play together or snuggle or even seem to communicate in any way. Both were happy and affection members of the family. They were respectful of each other’s space and didn’t try to steal food or treats from each other’s bowls. Their adjustment was going better than I expected. Except, I couldn’t help but feel that they were each missing out on something very special…companionship. How wonderful it would be if they would give some indication that they were enjoying each other’s company and that they could rely on each other presence when they had to stay home alone. Even just knowing another dog was in the room would help to lessen any loneliness they might be feeling or calm the fear of hearing a storm approach. I worried that I just wasn’t seeing that kind of relationship develop. Little did I know how much I didn’t know about canine compassion but would soon learn
One day I was cleaning Charlotte’s ears. She was sitting on my lap and being her usual cooperative self. I saw some ear wax in one of her ears that I just couldn’t reach with the washcloth I was using. So, I did something I’ve never done before…I took a Q-tip and started probing her ear to get to the area I was so intent on cleaning. All of a sudden Charlotte yelped in pain. I had gone too far with the Q-tip. Lovey came running with a very worried look on her face. She started sniffing and licking Charlotte in an attempt to find out what was wrong. She also appeared to want to comfort her with her presence. Charlotte responded by allowing Lovey to reign kisses on her from head to toe. I sat there totally dumbstruck. In my naivety, I had assumed that these two dogs were living their lives independently without a thought or a care for each other’s well-being. Boy, was I wrong. They obviously cared a great deal about each other.
After this incident with Charlotte’s ear cleaning, I started thinking about all the times I’ve seen dogs respond to people or other animals they perceived were having a difficult time. After reflecting on this phenomena for a while, I came to the conclusion that canine compassion is a very real and powerful part of a dog’s life. Many dog owners have experienced this canine compassion when their dogs laid on their laps during times of pain, suffering or loss in an attempt to help their masters feel better. We’ve all heard stories of people who fell while out for a walk and were unable to get up. And how their dogs never left their sides. In some cases their furry critters even kept them warm and protected them from predators. Then there are the heart-warming stories of dogs protecting baby kitties from the cold by letting the babies nestle in their soft warm fur. We have all oohed and aahed over these wonderful tales. In fact, we can’t get enough of hearing about how a dog saved a baby animal from the harsh weather or the hungry wolf. The human-canine connection is extremely strong and so is the compassion we feel for each other.
Lovey taught me a valuable lesson that afternoon, one I won’t soon forget. Compassion is woven into a dog’s genetic make-up. It doesn’t matter what kind of dog they are or where they come from. Dogs are compassionate creatures and we oftentimes are lucky enough to be the beneficiaries of their caring hearts.
Blessings to you and your furry and compassionate friends.