With Valentine’s Day coming up, everywhere you look love is in the air. Red roses, heart-shaped boxes, and teddy bears are all out priming our minds to buy stuff for our loved ones. It’s like Cupid threw up at Wal-Mart. All of this subliminal messaging has caused me to think about love, but probably not the kind you think. I have been thinking about unconditional love. This type of love is extremely rare, but that makes it that much more special. When I think about this type of love, the first image that comes to mind is not of a person, but of my old service dog, Jorey.
When I was 16 I got the privilege of being selected to receive a service dog through Canine Companions For Independence. These dogs are trained to assist disabled people, and they are provided free of charge. Getting a dog meant taking a 2 week class in Dayton, Ohio to get matched to a dog and learn to handle him. I still remember the first time I saw Jorey at the class. The service dogs were all lined up, calmly waiting for us, except for this one dog. This dog was standing there trying to fit another dog’s entire head in his mouth. He was still calm and attentive, but he was just going to town using this other dog’s head as a chew toy. I took one look and just knew, that was the dog I would end up with, and I was right. Jorey and I were matched a few days later, and after completing the course we traveled home an inseparable pair.
Almost immediately, we had a very strong bond. He knew that it was his job to take care of me, protect me, and love me, and he never faltered. Every night, he would lay in the same spot near my bed (there is actually a spot on the wall where he rubbed the paint off) just to watch over me. If I would wake up in the night and need my parents, Jorey would immediately hop up and go lick their face until they got up to help me. Even as a 70 pound golden retriever/Labrador retriever mix, he was always so gentle and careful with me, as if he knew I was disabled. He did everything I could have ever asked of him, and he didn’t expect anything in return. He loved me unconditionally. And in doing so, he taught me how to love him the same way.
Unfortunately, Jorey passed away last winter after 11 years with me. I still think about him and the bond between us. He was always there to listen to me, to help me, to comfort me, and to love me no matter what. We would just look at each other and his tail would start wagging. I will always remember the time we had together and everything he did for me. How he showed me the right way to love, without expecting anything in return. To love someone just because you can, because they need you to. That is a special kind of love. As you spend your time and money during this season on your Valentine, stop for a second and think about how you are loving them. Maybe by showing them some unconditional love, you can make your relationship even stronger.