We recently put our elderly dog to sleep. It was a sad day, but the most remarkable thing about his death is the void left in my husband’s world.
Every day for the past eleven years, my husband returned from work and took Bailey for a walk, a daily highlight for both of them. Bailey would sit patiently by the door every evening listening for the car. When the door opened he jumped up and down like a child on Christmas, shadowing Keith’s every movement until he said, “Come?” At that simple request, Bailey cocked his head, leapt with joy, and rushed to the door as if the creature’s entire existence was defined by that one moment.
They walked for 45 minutes together in our woods side by side. When they returned from their ‘date’, they were both calmer, happier, and oddly at peace with the world.
Following our dog’s death, my husband’s homecoming just wasn’t the same. The look on his face got me thinking, ‘What if I loved him like his dog did? What if I could fill that void as his wife?’
With closing arguments in an 1870 trial about a murdered dog, attorney George Vest said, “The one absolutely unselfish friend a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog.” This famous statement was shortened to the common phrase ‘man’s best friend’ and has summarized this special relationship between man and dog ever since.
That made me wonder. Why aren’t wives referred to as man’s best friend? What would happen if we could love our husbands the way their dogs do? What would change? What might be better?
Someone shared the song, Like My Dog by Billy Currington with me. Some of the lyrics were too graphic to print, but the chorus is worth pondering:
“I want you to love me like my dog does, baby
When I come home, want you to just go crazy
He never looks at me like he might hate me
I want you to love me like my dog”
What would it look like if wives could fulfill this heartfelt longing? Maybe our relationships would look less like country songs and more like the marriages we hope for.
Suzanne Phillips, a clinical psychologist at Long Island University, completed extensive research charting similarities between man’s relationships with dogs and their marriage relationships. Many marriage counselors agree that some basic needs are the same. Even the Creator of the covenant between a husband and wife has clear directives about the need to find that reciprocal ‘best friend’ kind of love in marriage.
I know I am walking a fine line here. I am not suggesting in any way that the female and canine species are comparable. And I know it takes both a man and a woman willing to work at loving each other well to make a marriage successful. But, maybe we can take some cues from man’s best friend.
Dogs are excited to see you. When was the last time you dropped everything when your husband walked through the door? Would taking a moment to show our husbands we are glad to see them help them feel loved?
Dogs are always ready to play. As silly or inconvenient as it may be when we have serious business to attend to, would it hurt to lighten up and join our husbands in some playful fun?
Dogs are eager to please. They are always available and never look disgusted or disappointed. Would putting our husband’s needs ahead of our own occasionally motivate him to meet ours?
Dogs don’t criticize. They do have a clear advantage. They can’t talk. If they could, I bet they wouldn’t nag, whine, or complain. Maybe showing more appreciation to our husbands would encourage them to do the same.
Dogs follow the lead. Dogs trust their owners based on a history of shared respect. Maybe we can also build trust by respectfully listening and accepting our husband’s ideas even when they don’t match our own.
Dogs don’t hold grudges. If you miss his walk one day, he is ready and willing the next. Maybe we can do a better job of apologizing when we are wrong and quicker to forgive mistakes.
Dogs are devoted. Dogs are healthiest and happiest when they are near their best friend. Maybe we can show our husbands that we admire them by devoting more time and attention to them.
Maybe if I could learn to love my husband like his dog did, he would love me like he loved his dog. Maybe if I walked beside him more often, greeted him eagerly at the door, and didn’t complain as much, I could become his best friend too.