By Kathleen Guthrie Woods
When I adopted my first 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 did indeed have a magnetic personality, but what he attracted were “guys”—and girls—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 came from all the really little kids who tried 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 kids were, how much I wished they were my own, and I’d lose myself in my loss. But over time, I began to cherish, even look forward to, these brief connections in what is otherwise a quiet daily life. In hindsight, I’ve thought about how they’ve helped me in the healing process. Trailing alongside as Beau served as neighborhood goodwill ambassador, I felt less isolated and more a part of my community. As he lapped up the hugs and cuddles, I got drawn into friendly conversations with strangers. Not “strangers,” just other humans seeking, like me, to give and receive a bit of affection.
Beau has since passed on to the dog park in the sky, or as dog lovers sometimes say, he’s crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. These days my walking companion is Louie, a rowdy, wicked-smart, completely devoted cattle dog-Corgi mix my husband and I adopted several years ago. (That’s Louie on the left and Beau on the right below.) He is not really my “kid”, he will never take the place of the children of my heart, but he is one of the great loves of my life, and I am so grateful for the joy he brings me.
I’ll bet many of you have also realized how much your four-legged companions have 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 a beloved pet, I hope you’ll share a story in the comments of how s/he has brightened your world. We could all use a little extra dose of light and love today.
Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status.