Man’s best friend for good reason

Shannon Findley
Shannon Findley
Shannon Findley

By Shannon Findley

“OK, this time I’m not going to cry. I promise, promise, promise!” So goes my spiel each time the movie “Marley and Me” is popped into the DVD player. From 2008 to the present day, I have yet to watch the dog-book-turned-movie without ending up a blubbering mess of tears, tangled hair and snot on the floor.

What is it about dog movies that pulls on a dog lover’s heartstrings so?

Could it be that perhaps subconsciously we are comparing the beloved four-legged friend on screen to our own furry companion sitting in our lap or at our feet?

To see the puppy on-screen tear up the poor owners’ living room makes you chuckle as you remember that favorite pair of sandals your own pup claimed as his own chew toy so many years ago. To see the old, gray dog slowly put to sleep at the end of the film causes you to weep as you realize that your dog’s life is short and that his companionship shouldn’t be taken for granted.

When I watch a dog movie, it isn’t Marley or Skip t I see on screen, but my own little Chihuahua-dachshund mix Scout, who is almost always sitting on my lap or under a blanket nearby.

So as I watched “Marley and Me” on Monday night, for the umpteenth time I had to lay on the couch long after the final credits rolled composing myself and reining in big, fat dog-lovin’ tears.

As I lay there I wondered what is it that really makes dogs so special? Why, since the 18th century, have these messy, oftentimes smelly and unruly four-legged creatures been called “man’s best friend?”

I really believe dogs provide to humans what every person longs for at the core of their being: unconditional love and companionship. Think about it for a minute — even the homeless man who is barely able to feed himself is willing to survive on even less than what little he has for the sake of keeping his only companion, his dog, alive. This vagabond-canine duo is often seen huddled under an overpass bridge on the coldest winter nights, the man feeling a soul-deep bond to the dog who has loved him better and stuck closer to him than any human has in many, many years.

And what about the lonely child who is bullied at school and comes home to an empty house because his single mother is out working late again? Or the teenage girl who is brokenhearted because the boy she loved decided he didn’t feel the same way anymore?

A dog is there for us in these dark and desperate times. He is there when people aren’t. Our dogs know our biggest secrets and fears; their fur has soaked up our biggest tears and muffled our lonely sobs. That’s what makes dogs special. That’s what makes us call them friend.

As I mulled all this over Monday night, feeling sad, happy and little bit like a pathetic over-the-top dog lover all at the same time, Scout waddled over on his stubby legs right up next to my face and began licking all those salty tears away as if to say, “It’s OK, I’m here for you. I’m never going to judge you or leave you for anybody else. You’re my best friend. I just love you.”

Shannon Findley is a junior journalism major from Woodway. She is a reporter for The Lariat.