3 Min read
2 Book Recs
AVAILABLE ON PODCAST
Herz is a good name for a dog adopted on Valentine’s Day, especially for a shepherd mix because Herz is the German word for heart. The dark face and fawn body resembles the Belgian Shepherd or Belgian Malinois. But this dog has one ear turned out and one flopping over, so it’s hard to think of him the same way as his K-9 brothers with handles like, Kaiser or Glock or Cairo, the name of the war dog on SEAL Team Six that helped in the capture of Osama Bin Laden. Envision a muzzle and sharp teeth with wolfish face, black body armor around the chest. It’s a fright to behold.
Now envision a puppy with lion-sized paws galumphing behind the family’s Boston Terrier rescue named Buster, who even at seven years old is half the pup’s size. We hadn’t named him yet and a mess of German food names came to mind for him: Schnitzel, Spaetzle, Nudel.
My daughter played Lion King’s Circle of Life on the speaker and threw her hands in the air. It had been months since she lost her late grandma’s much-loved boxer and this silly pup had us laughing. She likes the name Simba for the playful Disney cub. We washed dishes and tapped about the kitchen while the poor creature sat beneath the table, taking in the music and movement and wondrous new smells with one ear cocked.
A spray of long-stem red roses sits on the kitchen counter and the chocolates are half eaten. The pup will be here when those are gone. Valentine’s Day is one of the holidays where I feel duty-bound to profess love, which is not a bad thing and not hard to do with a fur-baby in the house. We do like the chocolate ganache my husband gave me.
These holidays can seem a chore, another small way to feel defeated if I don’t get it right. When I skip it like I did this year, opting to adopt this shepherd mutt from Texas, I figure I’m rebelling against the commercial mandate. Isn’t it better to show love and affection on my own schedule? or in my own way?
I don’t think humans are that different from dogs. Social creatures in need of love, timid in new environments, comfy at home. Reassurance is a welcome part of life, a routine in loving. Wake. Play. Snack. Walk. Food. Brush.
This brings me to an anecdote, maybe two.
Some years ago a friend and I found time to get together. We talked about our lives, the children, work, the drudgery of home. Love at middle-age came up and she said her husband came home from work one night. After dinner he strode into the room and threw an item onto the bed.
The actual item skips my mind now, a card or box of chocolates maybe. Without missing a step on his way to the closet, he announced:
I nearly spit out my drink, I was laughing so hard. Tears stung the corner of my eyes, the side-splitting kind.
“I’m serious,” she continued. “He hates when he has to buy stuff because the market Lords say so.” I shared an occasion when I was tucked in bed for the evening, and my husband walked in and said he had picked up a book for me. In the same manner he spun it into the air where it landed, just shy of hitting its target, me. It was a book about introverts by Susan Cain. We had, after enough years, come to a kind of agreement on social commitments, one per month, better none. What was he trying to say?
“Really? This is a gift?” I said.
And in spite of its manner of delivery, which is a factor to consider, and I must emphasize this for younger readers. Proceed with caution in dismissive and desultory acts with your loved ones. Delivery and manner and timing are part of the art of love. Turns out the book was the antidote for a lifelong quasi-guilt about my love-hate affair with solitude. Susan Cain (Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking) made it ok, in fact she made it normal, explaining that introversion has everything to do with how we recharge. For me that means solitude. For the extrovert that means PAR-TEE.
Love as it turns out is an art. That means it requires practice and I will practice with Simba. When we met him Sunday, he was so shy he wouldn’t come into the play room at the shelter; they had to carry him in. Love requires practice. (The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm)
In his slim landmark work, Fromm lays out his belief of love–in all its forms, between parent and child, erotic love, self-love, love for God, surely creatures even the floppy eared ones–as the answer to human existence. It is compelling. Then he highlights essentials of the practice: discipline, concentration, patience and the need to be fully present to be sensitive to another.
If a holiday mandates you show love, go ahead and join the fun even when you forget to buy something to demonstrate your affections. Hug your loved ones or brush the dog. I don’t need a date to practice love, but it sure is nice to hear and feel appreciated.
I pulled the wilting petals off of my roses on the counter and filled the vase with more water. My husband and daughter are thrilled with the new lion-cub, Simba. He didn’t need to be carried outside or into the room. It’s been one day and he follows me to the piano to listen to music and romps after us when we go into the kitchen! The pup has absolutely no idea what a Valentine is, but he’s learning about love.