Love

Valentine’s Day, the agreed-upon celebration of love — at least between people coupled up — is past us. Though many correctly view it as a “Hallmark holiday,” a means of guilt-tripping (usually) men into buying something for their loved ones, is a holiday expressly devoted to love such a bad thing?

I don’t think so. But lost in the card-buying, going out to dinner and chocolates- and flowers-foisting is one fact about love: Being loved is amazing, but loving another creature is transcendent.

Almost exactly six years ago, when my father was still alive and my girlfriend and I adopted a three-legged mutt who had been caught in a coyote trap in my hometown, he and I talked about the wisdom of and motivation behind dog ownership. At the time, I had to admit that there’s no logic to it, especially if one doesn’t own a “working” dog.

While my dog’s bark could conceivably scare off a burglar, ultimately she’s red ink in the ledger. We buy food for her and, if we’re not careful, she’ll help herself to Christmas cookies, English muffins or other delectable treats we’ve left on the counter. We take her to the vet. We clean up after her when she doesn’t quite make it outside to do her business.

Yet she doesn’t pull a sled. As a pit bull-, boxer- and who-knows-what-else mix, she’s not large enough to lean on should one of us require it to keep our balance (mercifully, we don’t). We don’t hunt, and I suspect she’d have no interest in either flushing or retrieving fowl for us.

Still, we love her, and her 15-year-old, one-eyed, stumbling and incontinent brother just the same. Why?

It makes no sense, really, but love doesn’t make sense. Except that love is the most important thing in the world and, more specifically, loving another creature is the most important thing in the world. Even more than the written word, our capacity to love is what makes us human, or maybe even superhuman.

A dog might not be right for you, your house or your circumstances, but you have to make room for love. Love is all you need.

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