I hate that sometimes the truth sounds utterly cynical.
It’s pack instinct. Through and through.
When you befriend a dog, you become part of its pack. You own each other in a semi tribal way. If you boss it around a lot, then you establish yourself as alpha. Realisitically, the dog is always at the bottom of the pecking order.
Dogs are excellent at this pack stuff. They play and jump and touch and make contact to reinforce the social bonds within their pack. They are hugely protective if they see a pack member being attacked (I know one dog that has a tendency to attack people if they high five his favourite humans).
It’s all just the way dogs socialise on an instinctive way. It’s how they reinforce bonds to create a community for protection purposes. It’s also how they make sure they get fed.
Very cynical right. Where’s the love?
It’s still there. I see the pack thing as just as beautiful as the notion of big hearted dogs.
You still have a certain amount of loyalty. I still have three dogs that are always happy to see me. They all show their affection in different ways, from the subtle rub against the leg (held, she always presses up against the leg and stays there) to the manic scrambling jumping and barking (he always goes mad, I have to admit that I sometimes encourage it a bit).
And this affection is something real. There is no deceit in the pack instinct, and in fact, in real terms, it’s not that different from ‘love’. By adding a lot of intellectual romantic ideals to the words, we’ve actually only helped to corrupt the pureness of the notion. It’s our brains that get in the way, sowing doubt and confusion.
Dogs don’t worry about what love is, they just know who they love.
And sure, without the poetry and the romcoms, maybe it’s not ‘love’ love. But it’s an instinct. Just a natural, honest, heart-filled thing.
Fuck brains. Why let your brain get caught up in something when your gut tells you what to do? (Okay, there’s a million exceptions to that, but let’s not get bogged down, let’s just talk about how cool dogs are).
And, while it would be cynical to say that when we fall in love we are actually just falling instinct over head in pack with somebody. It’s those same ideas and symbols. Physical contact, bonding together. Reinforcing connections and helping each other to survive.
And maybe that’s not all there is, but I’m happy to find that romantic enough in itself. Although it’s important to note that I think that (a) one of the problems with modern society is that our packs aren’t big enough, a pair of people are not enough to raise a family, we must extend outwards into larger communities, and (b) pack mentality creates barriers between people, and everyone should love everyone more.
In the heart.
Like a dog.
Illustration by Emma.