The short life that changes your life

Tosca, Buddy, Punky, Santi, Pon, Frijol, Noname… the list of names of dogs that I remember living with us is way shorter than the actual number I could have kept. I feel a bit embarrassed for not remembering them all but they were many and I grew up surrounded by them and saw them as a normal ocurrence in life… but they are much more than that.
Those dogs that were there when I arrived, that were there when I left, as part of the daily things I knew, some that were old when I was young and some that aged and died while I was still young, I wonder if they ever wished for more than we could give them. They were there to take care of the house, to help us whenever we went to the forest for wood, to play now and then, they were sometimes the only companions I had to hold on to when things weren´t going so well, I wish I had known a bit better how much they mean, but you know what they say: „you only know what you have…“
As I grew up and faced the world and the things that change when you leave childhood behind, I started to understand the deep meaning these dear friends have, the lovely paw print they leave in your life, the way they change who you are. I have read more than once that every child should have a dog, and it is a statement that only those who have a place in their heart for such a friend will really understand – be that friend a dog, a cat, a horse, everyone knows what fits them better – and be able to agree that some of the greatest lessons in life come from someone who can´t say a single word.
Years ago, when I was a little kid, there was a TV show I was familiar with. Once I saw the whole family in the show crying and getting ready to attend a funeral, I was shocked to think that probably the daughter of the couple had died – since father and mother were seen -, however I felt more shocked when I realized it was their dog that had passed away. I just couldn´t understand the extent of their loss, I was used to seeing dogs come and go, being born and die, my parents had taught me that every animal in our almost-farm house had a purpose and function, and no animal had the function of being a friend. As time has passed and family and friends are somehow falling into the past and becoming more memories than presence, now that life has become a new way of seeing and feeling, I find myself holding on as tight as I can to a paw that the same softly touches my hand than opens a whole in the garden, a little buddy that often pushes me away if I try to hug him, but licks my face and jumps like crazy whenever I come back home even if it´s been only minutes since we last saw each other.
There has been the long debate on whether animals really understand us or not, whether they love us or just see us as part of their group or simply as the beings that feed them; I, of course, don´t need to read explanations or hints that point towards this or that, I just need to open the door when I come home to get a clear sign that the little one I love also loves me. May it be so, may it be not, I find it the only possibility.
We sometimes say that life is too short, but then you realize how shorter THEIRS is. If you are lucky you spend a bit more than a decade building up a relationship that comes with no financial or material benefits, maybe the inicial reason to get a dog was the thought that you wanted someone who needed you, but on the way you realize that it was you who needed them… which might sound selfish, but on the realms of your relationship with them, that may-be selfishness disolves into your long walks in the dark, in the cold, hours in a room worried whenever they get sick, cleaning up after them without feeling any disgust even though you usually can´t even see a dead bug on the ground. You try to be for them what they are for you.
They come into your life and earn a permanent place, they teach you that words can be easily substituted by a moving tail or head, they make you feel that they care about you, even if they might have never been able to tell your name from other´s.
And over the years, through good times and bad… through ups and downs, they will be by your side, as happy with an expensive toy as with a stick, as long as you are the one holding it. A silent partner… the first one to greet you at the door when you come home, the one who stares at the same door the day you leave to face your own destiny and your mom tells you that he stayed there for hours. They are the little ones who, as long as you treat them the way they deserve it, they see in you the best company, the greatest being. They are the ones that don´t expect you to change your dressing code, your table manners. They are the ones that let you know a different way of happiness and are the happiest just being with you.
Not expecting that you change who you are, they actually change you forever.

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