By Kathleen Guthrie Woods
When I adopted my dog, Beau, my girlfriends were convinced that he would be a man magnet. “Guys will come up to you at the beach and the park.” “Your dog is so cute! Guys will totally want to play with him.” “You have to take your dog running—hot guys will totally be attracted to you!”
Turns out Beau does indeed have a magnetic personality, but what he attracts are “guys” in the 2 to 12 age group. “Oh my gawd! Your puppy is soooooo cute!” “Can I pet him? Does he bite?” (Fortunately, no…unless you’re a cat.) “Arf arf!” (That last one comes from all the little kids who try to “talk” in dog language.)
In the early stages of accepting my childfreeness, such encounters could be painful. I’d think about how cute the kid was, how much I wished she were my own, and I’d lose myself in my loss. But over time I’ve come to cherish these brief connections in what is otherwise a quiet daily life, and during a recent walk, I started to think about how much they’ve helped me in the healing process. Trailing alongside as Beau serves as neighborhood goodwill ambassador, I feel less isolated and more a part of my community. He gets petted and hugged, while strangers strike up friendly conversations with me.
As a bonus, I get some precious kid time. Tantrums come to a halt, bratty behavior disappears. In general, when children approach Beau, they’re in happy moods. We share a few sweet moments and I get a smile or two. I even get to practice some parental skills when I teach kids safe dog-petting skills. (“Always ask before you pet a new dog. Touch his back, not his mouth. Probably best to leave your Cheerios in your stroller.”) By the time Beau and I have finished our loop, I’m in a happier mood too.
Beau didn’t help me pick up a future mate, but he has picked up my spirits many times.
I’ll bet many of you have also had moments when you’ve realized how much your four-legged companion has helped you through tough times. If you don’t have a pet, consider volunteering at a shelter to play with the animals, offer to walk a neighbor’s dog, or simply stop someone on the street and ask if you can pet his/her dog. If you are the lucky human of beloved pet, share a story in the comments of how s/he has brightened your world. Let’s all attract a little more light and love today.
Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status.