On Dogs and Unconditional Love

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On Dogs and Unconditional Love

By Mary Martin, Animal Person

Now that I have a child, I can safely say that children are very, very inconvenient. Far more than a diabetic greyhound. But you love them and they're part of your family and returning them would be unthinkable. You do what's necessary for them because they deserve the best chance at a great life, and if they never thank you that shouldn't matter.

What you do for them isn't contingent upon what they give you in return.

Saturday was the one-year anniversary of the tragic death of my Charles Hobson Booger, III and it got me thinking about how easy he was to love. Everyone loved him. Okay, not everyone. There was that little Westie whose vulva he bit early on. Yes, vulva. No stitches, no puncture, but still a nasty bruise and some scratches. Charles had a higher prey drive than he appeared to have at first. No playing with little white dogs, which isn't uncommon for greyhounds. We just had to work with him and manage him and we were happy to do so.

As for people, Charles loved everyone and was very enthusiastic to meet someone new. He was 85 pounds (large for a greyhound), very muscular (odd for a greyhound) and spectacularly gorgeous, with Pharaoh Hound-like ears. Easy to love.

And as much as I miss him, this post isn't about Charles. Nor is it about Violet Rays, who is still with us at nearly 12-years old. She's an insulin-dependent diabetic who can hardly see (she had cataracts which we replaced, but then her retinas started to detach and we didn't catch them in time) and has very few teeth due to severe gum disease (greyhound breeders and trainers don't take care of the teeth of the hounds, as that's not where the money is). She has definitely slowed down, but she looks great and has perked up a bit now that it's regularly under 90 degrees and the humidity decreases by the week.

Violet's stunning, and that's what everyone notices first and comments on. But she's not really keen on anyone and isn't at all social. People like her because she's beautiful. Violet doesn't want to be touched unless she comes to you or you approach her very carefully and ask permission. She's not snuggly. She doesn't follow me from room to room (that was Charles' job), and she barely lifts her head when I walk in the door (as opposed to Charles, who'd come running). She doesn't want Sky to come that close to her and she's no fan of Emily the kitty.

I wouldn't say Violet loves unconditionally.

And none of that matters, because Violet doesn't exist to boost my self-esteem. We adopted Violet to give her a safe and loving home. She had already been returned by people who didn't want to deal with her diabetes because it was inconvenient for them. And it is inconvenient.

Now that I have a child, I can safely say that children are very, very inconvenient. Far more than a diabetic greyhound. But you love them and they're part of your family and returning them would be unthinkable. You do what's necessary for them because they deserve the best chance at a great life, and if they never thank you that shouldn't matter.

What you do for them isn't contingent upon what they give you in return.

And the same should be true for nonhuman animals. They shouldn't have to be beautiful, perfectly behaved, healthy and wanting a human as the center of their universe for them to be deserving of a good life.

No greyhounds were forced to race in the above photo. They were actually cooling down by walking at their leisure after playing in the adjacent field.