There was a study published out of UBC earlier this month that said man’s best friend hates hugs. It apparently makes them anxious.
It wasn’t really news to me. My chihuahua isn’t subtle about his disdain for squeezes.
Not to say he’s averse to affection. He just prefers it in the form of being carried places and, from time to time, he shows it by breaking into my personal sleep space and giving me kisses. Trouble is, I’m a mouth breather. Let’s move on.
The point is this story came out two weeks ago when my best friend and I entered what I was told could be the final moments of an eight-year relationship, and I really wanted to hold him tight. The drugs he was on meant he wouldn’t have made much of a fuss, but it may have hurt his spine as well as his pride, so I gave him some space and ugly-cried into his fur for hours on end. I’m sure he found it very soothing.
For all I know it was that, along with the tireless care and kindness of Dr. Moshe Oz, that gave him what has been deemed an amazing second wind. He’s functional, pain-free and happy to be home.
For all the miraculous healing I’ve watched in recent days, however, it was made shockingly clear to me that my best friend and I are limping into the final leg of our adventure.
It’s a funny thing with dogs, isn’t it?
We know going in that we’re going to outlive them. Their time with us is fleeting.
We know that, yet there isn’t a single dog person I know who isn’t flattened when the time comes to say goodbye.
Strangely, there isn’t a single non-dog person I know who seems to get it, and say as much in these times.
Funny, that too. How sad it must be for them to not know that the countless studies that say dog people are happier, more well adjusted and healthier aren’t a farce. Reciprocal and unconditional love is simply healing, even if hugs aren’t.
For some, it’s even a game-changer.
Bean—also known as The Bean, Beanie Baby and the Baby Beansus, depending on the season—met me 11 years ago, when I moved back to Canada after a multi-year break.
He was a friend’s dog and he climbed onto my shoulder within minutes of being introduced.
“He never does that, he really likes you,” I remember her saying. “He usually dislikes people.”
“So do I,” I said. “We’re kindred spirits.”
Two years later when he proved to be too difficult for her, she gave him to me, with the understanding we should be together.
It wasn’t with the most open arms I accepted him. I lived in a no-pet apartment and my job security was up in the air—the continual plight of a newspaper reporter.
But, the other option she presented was that he would go to a farm. He’s a wacky little thing, and he clearly belonged with me, not under the hoof of a cow who would make the sensible decision to squash him for any number of breaches of barnyard etiquette.
So, I took him home. I got evicted within a month and lost my job six months after that.
If he hadn’t been there, I would have moved back to Asia, where money and adventure were plentiful.
Instead, I took a lower paying job so I could stay with The Bean, who had quickly become my bestie as well as my responsibility.
Then we met a guy. Beanie dug him to China and it was reciprocal, so we got married and had a baby. The man and I—not the dog. And not in that order.
We even picked up another cast-off pooch along the way.
Other than the man, none of the new additions make Beanie particularly happy, but he’s grudgingly come to accept them. I think he knows none of them would be there if it wasn’t for his influence.
And, I regret to say, amid the hubbub of an expanding life, Beanie’s interests have oftentimes been put on the back burner.
This second wind has reminded me of the age old truth from Dirty Dancing—nobody puts (Beanie) Baby in a corner.
Dogs deserve the same devotion they show us. And I, for one, am glad for the 11th hour reminder.
This is where I think it would be appropriate to say everyone should go home and hug their pets.
Of course, that would just make them anxious. So, you know, do something else nice.