When Your Dog Doesn’t Love You
GETTING A NEW BEST FRIEND.
At the height of the pandemic, I went out and adopted the one thing I’ve dreamed about for years. A fluffy, cute, PUPPY. For 2 years I read all the books and watched all the youtube videos of how to raise, train and love a dog. And now I had her, napping in my arms. A perfect new fur ball best friend in the making!
We were going to do everything together. I would love her and she would love me. Showering me with kisses and cuddling with me all the time just like all the dog videos said she would.
And for the first few months, she did. She fell asleep in my lap. She followed me wherever I went. She even whined when I went anywhere out of eyesight. It was perfect.
And then one day something switched and the puppy I loved suddenly didn’t want to be near me anymore.
If I sat next to her, she would move and lay somewhere else. If I pet her, she would dodge my hand. When I came home, she would just lay there and look at me. No tail wagging. Nothing. Even if I opened my arms and gave her all the loving high pitched words in the world she would stare at me blankly and walk the opposite direction.
And that’s when I realized.
Oh my God. She doesn’t love me.
I knew this because when we took our walks she would wag her tail happily for strangers on the street and other dogs, but never for me. She would burrow into the laps of other people to be petted, but never for me.
What was going on?
I’ve never treated her badly, never abused or hit her, I feed her by hand, I give her treats and toys and exercised her everyday. So, why doesn’t she love me?
HATING MY NEW BEST FRIEND
At first I was angry. So, like a grumpy child, I ignored her. Of course, I fed her, bathed her, walked her the regular hours, but I made no attempt to play with her or cheer her on like I used to. I distanced myself from her. I thought: If you’re not going to love me, I’m not going to love you. Because for some reason, I believed if I rejected her first, it would keep me safe from feeling rejected by her. From feeling like a failed dog owner.
I felt even angrier that I was sold a lie. All these ‘a dog is man’s best friend’ propaganda from animal shelters were selling me something that they couldn’t guarantee. I watched hundreds of hours of videos of former abandoned dogs that fell in love with their rescuers, waiting for them to come home, tails wagging like crazy. Or dogs crying from greeting their owners after months apart. And they made me believe that all dogs love people and want to be with them. That getting a dog would change my life for the better and I would be blanketed with love 24/7.
And now I was stuck with this lie, napping on my floor, refusing to have anything to do with me. I wanted to know: why isn’t my dog like that? Was I sold a defective dog? Or worse, was it me? Was I just so unlovable and terrible that my own dog didn’t love me?
If it was a situation with a friend or boyfriend where the other person didn’t like me, I would wipe my hands from it and move on, leaving them out of my life. But what happens when it’s your dog? A living thing you purchased and promised to take care for their rest of their lives?
It got to a point where I honestly thought about giving her away.
Not because I’m some neglectful owner who just doesn’t want to deal with this dog anymore, but because I genuinely felt she would be happier with someone else, because she clearly didn’t want to be with me.
I was complaining about this to a mentor when she replied:
“That’s a lot of responsibility to put on a dog for your own self worth.”
What? What are you talking about? You crazy? I’m not… I’m not doing that. That’s so… Wait. Was I doing that?
Was I giving my dog the sole responsibility to love me 24/7 for the rest of her life? And if she didn’t, was I making that mean I’m not lovable?
It was then I realized two things.
First. I was giving my dog so much power over me. I was letting her behavior, determine if I was worthy of love.
And Second. What the hell, that’s not her job! She’s just living her dog life: eating, sleeping, playing, enjoying the moment. And I, the human, is trying to put purpose on her. A job. Trying to mold her into this thing that will love me. Imagine a mad scientist creating a human being to do that. In any story, that never ends well. You can’t force any living thing to feel any way about you. And that’s what I was doing to her.
I GOT IT ALL WRONG
It’s not my dog’s job to love me. It’s my job to love her, without expecting anything in return.
In that sense, isn’t that what love really is? And so I stopped making her actions mean anything about me at all.
And you know what? It actually made everything better. I was no longer putting all this expectation and pressure on her, so I was happier and I guess she sensed that and became happier around me too. And now she lets me give her scratches behind the ear and doesn’t walk away if I sit next to her. It’s amazing how when you let something go, it gives it more freedom to come back to you.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have my days. And I’m still learning how to love something I cannot fully understand, but I’m okay with that. And in a way, she did change my life for the better. I learned patience. I learned how to love something without expectation. And I have an excuse to go outside more.
So what does it mean if your dog doesn’t love you? Maybe a lot of things. But I know for damn sure, it doesn’t mean anything about your own lovability.