Commentary: If you are looking for unconditional love, adopt a dog

John Tamiazzo, PhD, is the executive director of the Verde Valley Humane Society.

John Tamiazzo, PhD, is the executive director of the Verde Valley Humane Society.

I read a story about a stray dog that ended up on the doorstep of a rancher. The dog was severely underweight and in need of food, a warm place to sleep, and lots of tender loving care. The rancher had recently considered getting a companion dog for Jack, his Jack Russell, who was old and blind.

Once the stray felt the love of his new friends, he instinctively took on the role of being a guide dog for Jack. He understood Jack’s need for assistance and became Jack’s protector, guide dog, playmate, and friend.

Mid 1800’s Humorist Josh Billings wrote, “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”

Is it possible to love someone more than you love yourself?

The field of psychology typically takes the position that you can only love another to the extent that you love yourself. If you don’t love yourself, where would you draw the love from to extend it to another? But the field of psychology primarily studies people. People tend to worry, can be judgmental, and have challenges forgiving one another.

Half of the population of adults have difficulty sleeping because they can’t turn their mind off. The process of thinking, analyzing, and figuring things out are wonderful human traits but when they are overdone, many physical and emotional problems ensue including loss of sleep. People need to play more and think less.

Dogs and cats, on the other hand, live in the present moment. They do remember, forgive, love to play, love giving their love to you, love being with you, and love you appreciating them. Worry, thinking too much, and inability to sleep are not part of an animal’s life style.

Do dogs and cats love others more than themselves? Just about every pet owner would say, “Absolutely!” Some of the reasons might be because they don’t think about themselves, don’t worry about their appearance, and are simply looking for and ready to participate in the next adventure.

The love we receive every day from our dogs and cats and the love that the rancher’s stray expressed falls into the category of what is called unconditional love. To understand what unconditional means, look at its opposite, conditional. Conditional love is limited, guarded, uncertain, and given with restrictions. Jack’s stray friend unconditionally loved him and unconditionally looked out for him.

In an article in the Huffington Post the author wrote, “If you want lessons in unconditional love, don’t look up to a role model — simply look down. Two exemplary role models for unconditional love generally stand at knee level: your kids and your pets. We, as (human) adults, can learn from our pets and children to build a better and more unconditionally loving relationship with ourselves and partners.”

The Verde Valley Humane Society is dedicated to placing every dog and cat in our care into a loving home.

Like the rancher who wanted a pal for his Jack Russell, you will receive an unconditional pal for life.

John Tamiazzo, PhD, is the Executive Director of the Verde Valley Humane Society.

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