Love is the way your dog looks at you when you have food.
No matter how many years of training a dog has, devious motivation shines bright in the eyes of a canine when you lift your fork off the plate or pizza from the box. For all they know, one doggy bite can have their human staying up all night to clean up disasters from an unsettled tummy. But in that moment, when the food catches their snout, all that matters is that puppy-dog eyes prove persuasive enough to merit someone caving in.
My dog’s eyes do something a little different when she sees food. Maybe it’s the dilated pupils, but her eyes shine dark with ambition when she sniffs out the tortilla chip accidentally dropped. Even though it’s almost certainly the smell of salt she adores, I convince myself those beady eyes mean only one thing every time: she really loves me.
Is it a coincidence that Moon loves me a little extra when I have food? Maybe not. But I respect her all the more for it, since I know she is a survivalist.
When my family and I rescued our dog from a shelter, her name was Java, and we learned she had first been found alone and roaming the streets somewhere. At only a few months old, Java knew what it meant to do what you have to for survival. That’s exactly why when she saw me and my family, she immediately wagged her tail, rolled onto her back and waited until belly rubs were delivered.
We were sold.
Only once papers were signed and she sat on her very own bed at home did we see another side to Jezelle — the name we chose for her. She had the most unstoppable case of the zoomies possibly in the history of all dog zoomies. Scratch marks all over a leather couch proved it. Even with her energetic rampages, I still found myself making sure she was covered with a blanket and warm at night while she slept on the couch that was by default hers now.
Moon — one of the main nicknames Jezelle has acquired since she entered my life — is now going to be 12 years old, and the zoomies are still very much zooming. There just so happen to be more naps required in between to refuel for rounds two, three, four and 10 of rabble-rousing.
Twelve years later, I wouldn’t change anything about the wild fur child my family and I brought home from the shelter. If anything, I love Moon so dearly that I thought more people should be able to witness her magic-toe-bean shenanigans. So I made her a social media account.
Now an impressive 50 followers can attest to how enthralled I am by my dog. If you have bad taste and for some reason don’t care for Moon in T-shirts and an avocado costume, don’t worry: I post other dogs too.
These “units” are captured in their natural elements by me, and others know I care about them if they share a unit they took a photo of and I post it to the account. While the photos might not always be the best quality (with some almost indistinguishably blurry), I find myself always uplifted by seeing an Instagram page full of dogs (and occasional birds and squirrels) of all sizes living their best lives and receiving love from humans.
As I began to wonder if taking pictures of other dogs was a questionable pastime, I had people who don’t even know me share how much seeing those units made their day. Having now photographed more than 1,000 units and counting, I can assure you that there is a best friend out there for you — possibly even one from the photos I’ve taken.
While some individuals aren’t quite “dog-people,” I entirely believe it simply takes the right animal companion to change that perspective. I’ve always liked dogs, but Moon has given me the gift of knowing what it means to really love our canine friends.
Her smile is one of the first things I wake up to in the morning. When I make myself breakfast, she’s already panting heavily with a slight wheeze to let me know her kibble isn’t going to serve itself. Getting home from an outing always means she will already be at the door with a wagging tail and sniffs to greet me.
She’s been by my side during moments I’m dancing on my living-room floor at 2 a.m., and she’s sighed a reminder of her presence when I’ve been broken on the floor after a relationship gone wrong. When my chronic pain flares, she doesn’t hesitate to lay right by me while I nap away the hurt. And when I wake up likely not feeling completely better, she never hesitates to comedically throw her toy at my face and remind me life keeps going.
Whether or not she looks at me and it’s love I see in Moon’s eyes, I know without a doubt that when I look at her, there is unconditional love in mine.