Turning Us into Believers

Dogs are interesting, energetic companions that have done so much for many different people around the world. Dogs can be man’s and woman’s best friend with their ability to cheer them up and be there for them when they are feeling low. Dogs are a crucial part of many families, and they can reciprocate that love and make someone feel as if they’re of the same blood as well. 

However, not everyone has that same appreciation for dogs. Take me at first. My only experience with dogs came from the little and unwanted interaction I had with friends’ and family members’ dogs. When I would walk into one of my friend’s houses who had a dog or multiple, it would be one of three outcomes. One, the dog would start barking its head off, seemingly threatening me to leave at once. Two, an overwhelming amount of attention was shown to me, trying to intercept my body and hands to get even a semblance of grazing their back or head. Or three, my friend stopping me at the door telling me to beware that their dog might come after me, to which I would alarmingly reply, “What?!” 

To me, dogs were a nuisance and it baffled me that people would willingly love and accept in their household a being that constantly needs attention, acknowledgment, and one that might be capable of injuring other people on a random morning or afternoon. Not only did I not understand the appeal, but I was focused on the negatives, and whenever I was at the same place as a dog, I would consciously focus on how to have the least interaction possible. 

Last year, my friend got a job at an apartment complex selling units right outside of the Manayunk area of Philadelphia. He ended up living there in a nice two-floor apartment with a big TV hanging on the center wall. Other friends and I would often go and watch football and drink a few beers at his apartment.  It was always fun and relaxing to just hang around and talk nonsense with your friends over some drinks. 

Then, on a Thursday night, my other friend and I were walking through the apartment door to be greeted by option number one. Two dogs barking ferociously asking us who we were and what we were doing there. At this point, I could not even begin to analyze what types of dogs they were or their breed, I was solely judging them by their appearance and actions. One was a slightly larger than medium-sized dog whose fur was pure black, and his eyes alone let me know that he was a nosy dog who was going to insert himself into everything. The other dog was a small dog, with longer black fur, a white streak and fox ears. He was a shy dog who would just aimlessly run around the apartment, often just running in small circles dozens of times over. 

I tried hard to implement my strategy, not showing any emotion or attention for them to pounce on. The bigger dog, however, would try and physically force himself under my hands or, even more annoying, onto my lap. The smaller one would constantly brush up against my legs and always stare at me analyzing my every move. Not to mention, whenever there was food around the apartment, the dogs would be bouncing off the walls.  

I would be lying if I said it didn’t bother me. I often just wished for some reason, someday I would turn into a ghost in their eyes, and they would stop paying attention to me or asking for acknowledgment. Yet, as time passed and without even realizing it, I found myself petting them. Even stranger, once they had gotten enough attention, they would leave my side and come back less than five minutes later. And I was petting them again. 

The magic of dogs is that they have an innate ability to create, maintain, share and strengthen bonds, just as humans do with each other. I have no idea how it happened, but for some reason, I started to form a bond with my friend’s dogs while actively trying to ignore them. Not only did I look at them differently, but it really felt like they looked at me as someone they loved and were attached to as well. 

The anxiety and harshness I previously had towards dogs went away thanks to them, and I was excited to get to see them. Now, my friend has since moved to Florida for a better job, but whenever we get to talk on the phone, I cannot help but ask about what the dogs are up to and how they have been.  Before, I did not believe in being able to see a dog as a friend or companion, but after my experiences I can see how amazing they can be. 

Every year on the weekend before Thanksgiving at the Greater Philadelphia Center in Oaks, PA, the National Dog Show takes place. The competition (November 18th and 19th Tickets Here) is an exhibit of the bond between owner and dog.  On Thanksgiving Day, the two-hour broadcast on NBC of the National Dog Show Presented by Purina, will bring viewers into this world of exploring bonds between owners and dogs from many different areas, backgrounds, and even cultures. Families all around the country will be able to watch and identify with these bonds.

I have the larger, black, nosy dog, named Duke and the smaller dog with fox ears and a white streak, Mac, to thank (that’s Duke and Mac pictured above). I thank them for allowing me to understand the wonderfulness of dogs, and I’m now excited to be tuning in along with millions of others on Thanksgiving Day.

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