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Kamrin Baker Headshot

Retrieval: How Being a Dog Person Has Brought Me Into the World

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I recently read this quote by Samuel Butler that perfectly and precisely stated how I feel about every relationship in the whole world:

"The greatest pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him, and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself, too."

I have established, after years of growing, maturing and rolling my eyes at every conversation, that the most we search for from relationships, in any instance, species, or time in history, is not only a full acceptance from the partner in crime, but a synergy, a compatible energy, that runs through fields and howls at moons.

I have been around dogs for my entire life, and I've become an individual who would rather roll in a pile of puppies than be on the Internet, which is actually a huge deal. Dogs have this way of dragging ourselves out of our human forms and convincing us to be free. Not the American democracy freedom, but the generous freedom that isn't afraid to drool out of our mouths or transform a walk through the park into a journey to one of Saturn's moons. There is a constancy and loyalty to any relationship with a dog that guarantees them a spot in heaven and a bowl of food in the laundry room, but there is also a distinct reward in becoming a person who keeps lint rollers in their car and a mini pet-sized vacuum in their home.

Throughout my time as a dog owner, dog sitter, dog lover, and the like, I have become more connected to the inner-workings of the world and the nature of being happy. Dogs are not at all well-versed in the idea of envy or discontent, but they know how to be clever, real and personable. They are not so inhuman that they are incapable of feeling sadness, but they are the most optimistic and well-coated individuals to bounce back from their simplistic tribulations. They are walking billboards for trust, and never suspect antagonism from anyone. Even in pain, they would rather stick out their tongues and hold your heaviness on the tips of their tails than watch you suffer.

Dogs are the prodigious versions of people, and without at least having the opportunity to interact with them, we lose the desire to edit the stories of ourselves or appreciate our drafts. They enchant the environment with their intellectual brightness and cast a light of security and passion onto the dank walls of our human uncertainty.

One of the most special things about dogs is that they notice the details. They can tell when you're feeling any emotion, they know when you play your favorite Joni Mitchell song on repeat, they know the echoes of the words "I love you" in any wavelength or long distance and they care enough to never care at all. They can see your new zits and your shifting balance on a bad day, and they are bubbling with so much affection that they overlook every single inch of those insecurities. Dogs are discounts on shoes that fit just right. Dogs are aloe on sunburn. Dogs are best friends who spill everyone's secrets in a language of Milk Bone biscuits and bite-marked collars so everyone and no one understands. They are mind-readers and fun house mirrors that show you what you're feeling in the blink of an eye and teach you what you deserve to be feeling in the whisk of a tongue.

I always have this urge, whenever an animal woofs, yaps, or barks, to make the same noise back at them. I have this natural obligation to hold up a conversation with someone who has no choice but to stay silent on a wooden porch deck with wondering wind chimes in the background. They smell like a locker room without perfume, and they sometimes destroy your house in one fleeting moment of bladder uncontrollability, but you will find that you can never repay an animal for messing up your clean white carpets and ironed out heartstrings.

Dogs beg us to be curious, to want something more from life, to look at the cusp of the universe and plead for it to throw us a ball. I owe so much recovery and discovery to the dogs I've met in this lifetime, and I wish I could multiply all the love I have for them by seven. Their devotion ages us and cultivates us into wild creatures that still have manners and snuggling skills, and for that, I will always wish I had a tail to wag in their honor.

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