The power behind our friendships with dogs

Man’s best friend for a reason

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Collegian File Photo

By Makailey Cookis, Collegian Columnist

Grabbing my sneakers, bathroom supplies and a few outfits, I rush to pack my bag for my weekend home. I hit the road at 3 p.m., knowing it only takes about an hour and twenty minutes to reach my house. My shift starts at 5 p.m. This will give me a little time to drop off my stuff and get dressed for work before I have to be at the restaurant.

On the drive, I try my best to lose myself to the music playing off of my Spotify playlist, but find myself in constant thought trying to figure out what time slots I have available for homework and making deadlines amidst the busy work schedule I committed myself to. As I contemplate how I am going to navigate the major assignments along with the smaller ones, as well as plan for allowing time to catch up with my mom, I let myself get overwhelmed. I tell myself that I overestimated what I can accomplish in one weekend. The thoughts fill with more weight and now my approaching work shifts seem impossible to get through.

However, after the stressful drive I pull in my driveway to the eight-year-old Dutch Shepherd who sits sternly in the frame of the glass door to my home’s entrance. There she is – Magenta. I know I am on a bit of a time crunch, but I could never enter the house without the most incredible greeting from my best friend who awaits my return every second that I am away.

I open the door and her tail wags rapidly against the wall of my living room, banging loudly, and in an indirect way, letting my mom know I have just arrived home. Her tongue licks the palms of my hands as I bend down to rub the soft head of the companion I have been missing since the last time I had left for my return to school. Her gentle kisses, combined with both the joy and relief that fill her eyes staring up at mine, fill my mind with the strongest sense of comfort. “I have made it home. She is here. I will get through this weekend and accomplish all that I have to do,” I think.

Since the day her ten-pound body made its way into my grasp, Magenta has always been my best friend. I have two older siblings, and have also always had strong friendships with those I have grown up around. However, there will never be a bond like the one that I have with my Dutch Shepherd.

Friendships with dogs — similar, but not exactly the same as relationships with other animals — fill what I have always felt as a void in our hearts. These are friendships that are not built through language but grow strong through time spent in each other’s presence. You don’t have to tell your dog when you are stressed, or that you just received great news, they can already sense that. As soon as you enter the same space as them, they can immediately feel the mood you are in, and behave themselves in a way that they feel will go best with your given state. Take, for example, why dogs have become commonly used as therapy animals. It is this unspoken language that makes our relationships with dogs so special.

For those of us undergoing any phase of life where we have to leave our four-legged best friend at home, we reflect on the times of support from our dogs. I carry various memories of Magenta’s presence that helped cure depths of sadness I experienced in moments of my youth. However, it is all those quick interactions, when I am rushing in and out of my childhood home, or stopping by just for quick needs, that I appreciate her the most. It doesn’t take more than a few seconds of feeling her happiness radiate through my touch that fill me with the sense of security I need to make it through each period of life.

Dogs offer companionship that comes with no cost. Sure, they need and appreciate the food and water you give them, as well as require exercise and a place to do their business, but ultimately, all they truly want is love and comfort from those that take care of them. A few minutes of rubbing their stomachs, or giving them the attention they deserve, and they will give you all of the love they contain. The friendships that exist between humans and dogs withhold so much depth, and for many of us they create the purpose we need to keep striving in the lives that we are given.

Makailey Cookis is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].edu.