We humans seek out companions that fit our sensibilities, both in buddies and in pets. That’s why when we see a Zsa Zsa type woman strolling down 5th Avenue with two tiny, bedazzled Yorkies prancing alongside, we think, well, that makes perfect sense. And, when we encounter a tall fence, heavily chained against unauthorized entry, it is almost expected that there will be the stereotypical snarling dog (frequently depicted in movies scenes) of the Doberman or Rottweiler persuasion on the other side, warning off all would-be trespassers. The typical junkyard dog is the perfect pairing for such a scene.
Although these scenes tend to make us feel as if all is right with the world, the pairings I like best are the most unexpected, which somehow makes them more appealing. It’s the surly-looking biker dude who keeps a tiny pocket pet Chihuahua in his leather jacket that makes my heart leap. It’s the toddler who has complete command over a Great Dane that never fails to put a smile on my face. And it’s the frail-looking, little old man who mesmerizes giant beasts with his mere presence and calm demeanor that makes me feel that all is truly right with the world. Although it all appears effortless, humans know and animals know that this is how it should be—they’ve found each other and their hearts are home. It is simply beautiful.
I met a family some years back with a house full of giggling girls. When they decided to get a dog, the sole man of the house pictured a muscled specimen—a behemoth canine well-suited to names like Thor or Fang. And it would have to be male. With a dog like that at his side, balance would be restored. What his family came home with, however, was a Creamsicle-colored Pomeranian. The girls were thrilled to have a pet that could be brushed and done up with bows. The man scrunched up his face in distaste. This 12-pound ball of fluff was the exact opposite of what he envisioned and the thoughts swirling around in his head centered around undoing this mistake. “Can we take it back?” was on the tip of his tongue when suddenly the tiny dog spotted him. At first sight, it squirmed away from the gaggle of adoring girls and made a beeline for the man, prancing across the floor on tiny paws, its fluffy tail waving behind him like a pom-pom. It stopped at the man’s feet, plopped down into a pretty sit, and looked up at him. The man looked down, taking in the shiny eyes and foxlike face. A paw touched his leg—a plea to be picked up. Despite the man’s grimace, the dog wanted to be close to him. He begrudgingly lifted the dog into his arms and that’s all it took. That little dog fell in love with the man and never wanted to leave his side. He chose the man over all those girls with their eager smiles and hairbrushes at the ready. It was not what he pictured dog ownership to be, but the man loved that little fluff ball. He became convinced that they were meant to find each other because, in a houseful of girls, the boys had to stick together.
I heard a story once about an elderly woman who lived next door to a family with a Saint Bernard. At home, the dog was unruly and clumsy, but when he snuck through the hedge to visit the lady, he became a different animal. It started when he was a puppy. When the family discovered he was visiting the elderly lady next door, they worried that he would knock her over or tear up her flowers. Puppies—especially big puppies—can be like that. But they were pleasantly surprised to discover a completely different scene. They came upon the lady on the patio, sitting in a chair and that oaf of a puppy was sitting nicely at her feet, his big head lying on her lap while she stroked his nose and talked softly to him. It was almost as if he knew that she was lonely and could use some company. And somehow, he instinctively knew to be gentle around her. For years, rain or shine, that dog went next door every day, and every day they had a nice visit. The family quit worrying about where he was or how he was behaving. He had found something good in the company of the lady next door and the feeling was mutual. They had found an unlikely but beautifully perfect pairing.
Our own daughter, Allison, had a strong hold on our Labrador, Markus, especially when she was little. He was very protective of her, despite the uncomfortable habits of crawling all over him and using his side as a pillow to look at books on the floor. She was so small, and that big dog hung on her every word. The pair were adorable to watch, especially when performing their signature biscuit trick. Here’s how it went: Allison would hide a big biscuit behind her back and gesture with the other hand, telling Markus to sit. Sitting, he was eye-level to his girl. She would then place the biscuit on his nose and say, “Wait… wait… ” in a small, coaxing voice. He listened and waited. She would walk slowly backward, repeating the command. Bless that sweet dog and his love for his girl—he waited, that yummy biscuit balanced awkwardly on his nose. When she got about 5 feet away, she’d shout, “Get it!” That’s when he would throw his head up and snatch the biscuit out of the air. She would laugh and clap as he chomped away on his treat, basking in the glow of her affection. The tiny girl and the big dog—what a perfect pair!
Call it fate or God’s will, but however dogs and humans find each other, the perfect pairing is a beautiful thing to behold.