“You know,” said a neighbor, “if people were a bit more like dogs, the world could be a better place.”
After a couple of weeks of taking a small black-and-tan rescue dog into our family, I’m learning a great deal from someone who communicates without ever saying a word. Luna, it turns out, is wise beyond her 10 months.
Dogs, like humans, need socialization. Being locked up in a house with a finite world of experiences can make them frightened of the world, afraid of coming across new and different interactions. The world is one big exciting place and, for dogs, one big playground to explore.
Luna needs several long walks a day. And while burning off puppy energy is one benefit, her getting to know the world and meeting strangers — both two- and four-legged versions — is essential. Dogs can either learn to be curious or fearful of the world, the latter leading to problems down the road.
Standing in the middle of the street, my neighbor and I watch as our two dogs begin measuring up one another. Leashes pull tight as two noses come closer, and a few nervous barks ring out. A nip here, a retreat returned with a playful stance, and soon tails are wagging. All is good in the world again.
He then reaches down to reward his dog, casting a long stroke across the silver coat.
“Good boy, Spanky,” he said.
In some ways, people and dogs are remarkably alike, sharing universal instincts for living in packs, territorially protective and generous to a fault with their heart.
People are the same. We tend to want to live near each other, making regular social interaction, and in times of need, prove to be willing to give a stranger the benefit of the doubt and shirt off our back. Dogs, in many ways, are a human’s best qualities amplified.
I love dogs. I love the honesty, the faithfulness, and that all they want from you is to love you and make your life better.
All of which brings me to my continued concern for today’s world. Today it seems as if society is teeming with anxiety; people are fearful of strangers and predisposed to be afraid or angry.
In response to our retreat into the impersonal world of social media and being protectively locked up in our homes, have we forgotten our roots of empathy and understanding? Have we somehow devolved into being fearful of the unfamiliar, uncaring of others and always ready for a fight?
I sincerely hope I am wrong.
Maybe we all need a couple of daily walks, leaving our phones and narrow focus of social-media friends on the kitchen table. Getting out, finding new faces, and people — much like our dogs do — might be good for us. The world is not perfect, but it certainly is not worth tearing down to the ground.
Let’s get out more. Meet more people. And as our dogs teach us, wag our tails more.