What my canine buddy taught me about long lasting friendships
If Calvin and Hobbes didn’t exist, it would have certainly been Arushi and Ruby:-)
I am a dog obsessed person. But I would rather say a dog empathetic person. Even since I was a child I would bring street pups home and feed them. Soon our family struck a bond with a dog family in our neighbourhood with their parents visiting our home frequently. I always wanted a pet, but like most parents, mine would say we have you already. They still say that though.
How I got my first pet is rather an interesting story. In the summer of 2006, I was returning from school and I spotted a labrador retriever sashaying on the lawn very close to my house. She wasn’t accompanied by a human hence i chose to chase her to know where she lived. Soon after, began the evenings of me going to this stranger’s house to play with their dog, ”Whisky”. And guess what Whiskey was pregnant at that time. After her delivery, which had 9 healthy puppies in the litter, I would puppy-sit them along with completing my much pending Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Labradors are the teddy bears in the dog world. They are harmless, docile full of love, and perpetually hungry. Looking at my unabashed dedication the owners asked if I would like to foster one of Whiskey’s pup? It’s like you’re drooling outside Haagen-Dazs and someone comes and offers you a free scoop of cookies ’n’ creme.
I said of course and chose a female wheat color puppy almost resembling my skintone. Thus came Ruby in our household (with a few more twists in the story, which I would love to talk about over a cup of coffee.)
I called Ruby my little sister. In the brief period of time she was with us, she taught us lessons for a lifetime. Lessons that played a role in every decision I have made so far in life. Here are my two cents on true friendship that remain with me for the rest of my life.
Disclaimer: I’m not a expert in friendships, I have faltered many times. These are some ideal things I feel one can do to have ever lasting friendships.
It’s ok to be picky about your company
Like good dog parents we made sure Ruby got to socialize with other dogs. But she was very picky about the dogs she liked and those she didn’t. She was unapologetic about wanting to spend time only with the woggies she had a strong affinity towards.
Life is small and you don’t want to spend it on people who don’t matter, or people who do not make you a better person. Make sure you pick the right bunch of people you call friends and make sure you give it your all.
Loyalty is a necessary condition
We never had to worry about losing ruby in a large crowded places as one shout out to her and she would come chasing like a wild bull towards us. Dogs in general have this unique trait that they stick to their humans come what may. Sometimes even when the humans are not good to them.
Test of true friendship comes when you are put in situations when you have to take sides and however easy or correct the other party might sound you stick to your people. What is more important is that you expect nothing in return. Such unconditional relationships are rare, but when they are formed, they last a lifetime.
Always watch your friend’s back
Whenever we would go out on a walk, quite often kids would try to bully her by pulling her tail or throwing mud on her. I made sure I complained to their parents to drill some sense in them. As I grew up, I dealt with these myself ;-).
Likewise, some of the animal haters in the housing committee of our society had passed a new rule saying that pets are not allowed in the society garden. Little did Ruby know that the garden where she had grown up playing fetch was now out of bounds for her. One day after her walk, she dragged me to the garden (with a labrador its usually they who take the call of where to go). We sat there for a while under the blue skies and fresh green grass our moment of relaxation was cut short when a gang of men came yelling at us, asking us to leave immediately. The stubborn person I am, decided to stay back and fight with these utterly pea brained people arguing what’s wrong with a non aggressive pet on a leash to sit on the grass they have designated to higher humans. That day I realised how much this fat fur ball meant to me. Ruby couldn’t speak, but I could tell this from her expressions how she just wanted to jump on me right away.
Your friend should know they can falter and you will be right where they need you to be. At times, this expectation is enough to make you stronger and fearless in life. It takes courage to speak up for something you are not directly affected by but when it involves your friends this courage should come naturally. That day they will know how special they are in your life.
No one can read your mind
Ruby loved her walks and car rides. But one thing was for sure, she made sure we knew what she wanted to do. There have been instances when she has stood close to the car door dad to take her on a joy ride. She would make sure she communicated what she wants to do every single moment (and we talked to back to her). If she needed to sleep she would make grumpy noises sitting in quiet corner and snore her way to glory.
Communication is the key ingredient in long lasting relationships. You have to make sure you tell your friend exactly what is going on in your mind rather than forcing them to keep guessing. We often expect people to understand us on their own. Little do we realize that humans have this limited ability to interpret another person’s personality or behavior. Why spend your resources in this unrobust remote sensing when you can just talk?
I’ll admit i’ve learnt the hard way after losing some good friends, but this little trick can do wonders.
Unconditional love comes naturally
Ruby was 3 years old when I had to leave for college. It was the most difficult times to stay away from your family and the most loving fat furball. But even if I visited after 6 months, Ruby’s love for me was always the same. She would treat me with the same affection even though I felt I should be around her to cherish every moment.
Expectations can kill any relationship. So keep them low and only then will you be able appreciate every drop of love that come your way. Relationships thrive on experiences, not expectations.
Spend quality time together
My mind would be at peace while spending time with Ruby. Be it the long walks in the wilderness, sitting quietly beside her in the garden and reading a book or just enjoying night cuddles with her, I always felt i was there in whole when I was with her.
In the cobwebs of our busy lives, it’s difficult not to multitask. However, it’s a good idea to shut everything when you are with the people you care about so that they know you are there in body and soul. Experience rather than immerse.
A comforting touch goes a long way
Ruby had this little trick up her doggie sleeves all the time. Whenever any one of us in the house was stressed she could sense it and would slowly walk up to us and keep her soft snout on our lap. Just like magic, all our worries would go away, instantly. Labs generally have what experts call “soft jaws.” Even if Ruby had bite inhibitions, her constant biting only felt like a massage on our hands.
We often underestimate the power of touch. Little more hugs and kisses would never harm anyone.
As people (dogs) grow with time, your friendship must also grow.
Ruby was a feisty pup. She would play with us for hours together before going to bed pulling our hair and scratching us all over. She bit on everything she could lay her teeth on. Nothing was spared furniture, shoes, books, wires anything you name it, was not shown any mercy and chewed up like gum. As she grew up she calmed down and started behaving like a responsible adult as much as she could.
People grow, people evolve. It’s important to grow up to be able to maintain the same rapport you shared with each other long back. This is the reason why even after being the best of friends long back people grow out of each other rather growing up.
Being there is important
When Ruby was diagnosed with a tumor in her ovaries, all of us were heart broken. I was in college at that time and my parents went ahead with the surgery as recommended by the vets.. She seemed to be recovering but little did she know that the pain would not end so soon. She contracted tick fever (which causes internal bleeding and brings the blood platelet count down in dogs to drastic levels). Even though I made it just in time, she left us all with this void in our hearts. I still regret I was not around when she needed me most.
It’s different when you are around in person vs being digitally connected. Cut some slack on your friends if they are not able to give you the same time and attention as they did when they were around.
Life is small. In the little time ruby spent with us she made a special place in our hearts and everyone who was touched with her presence. It is important that we remember our friendships for all the good memories and leave a little bit of sunshine wherever we go. Friendships often teach you what books, schools, and degrees fail to.