The Joy of Zoo

There is such a deep pleasantness to waking up in a warm cozy bed with a dog.

There are mornings when he and I both had a good night’s sleep, and in sleepy snuggly increments, we wake up and nuzzle into each other, appreciative on a still-not-fully-awake level to be spending this morning with our favorite person to wake up with. My favorite of these mornings are when, without ceremony or asking, he rolls towards me onto his back, and takes it completely for granted that I will give him a belly rub. And of course I’m happy to, I love rubbing his big ol soft belly. We lie there for as long as he likes, as the cozy minutes of the morning creep forward to the sound of a human palm rhythmically scratching on dog hair.

The niceness afforded by this moment all comes to bloom because he and I are not master and owner, but rather, I am a lifelong zoophile, and he is an intelligent, suave, large, handsome dog. It’s worked out by now that, this many years in to knowing each other, we are not just friends, but life partners. Husband and wife, if you like. Though there was no ceremony: this is simply a thing that has grown fuller and stronger over time until it was this.

So after he has decided the belly rub is done, he rolls the rest of the way towards me to face me, and we get to give each other little kisses and snuggle and just exist together and appreciate one another and this moment.

There are other mornings when I wake up feeling like achy annoyed garbage. Maybe some unnamed person was a dummy and stayed up until 4am. On those mornings too, waking up with my canine counterpart means the world to me. Even if I feel like crap, I can nuzzle up into his soft belly and enjoy his well-being vicariously. We have such a sense of empathy, of each being in tune with how the other feels. We care about one another, and so to feel that he’s alright this morning makes me feel better too.

Every morning we go out and do a lap around the nearby park. There are a few little trails we can choose from. One of them is his favorite, the one that is unpaved and goes through a more densely wooded area right beside the river, and he’ll pull me towards that path most mornings. As we go I jog over roots and slopes to keep up with his trots, or halt if he stops to sniff something. This walk is for him, after all, a chance for him to start the day on a pleasant note, to get out and experience something more meaningful than just sitting inside bored. I get to watch him take his time sniffing a plant, taking deep indulgent wet inhales through his nose - clearly there is something fascinating there to him. I watch him, savoring the chance to see the world through his eyes. When he’s done with that we move on, his nose to the ground taking in quick sniffs as he scans back and forth over the trail, until he’s found the next thing to stop and sniff at.

There are others at the park too, some mornings, usually at the pavilions. I try to make sure he and I keep to ourselves, since some people are afraid of dogs, and he is a giant as far as dogs go. But of course he’s a friendly guy. He knows a lot about getting along with humans, seeing as he’s had a human for a wife for this long. If kids want to pet him I’ll look to the parent, and if it’s alright with them, he’ll usually stand there and wag and receive the attention agreeably - or maybe get back to walking along, if he’s on the trail of something. But by and large, he’s good at making friends.

When we get back inside, I get him his food. He knows our routine well enough that he sometimes wags and then barks at me with insistence before I can even get my shoes off. When I do get the shoes off, I get his bowl, and I add in a scoop of dry food, which, at one point in time, would have been the entire extent of the preparation here. But over time, he has trained me to know that he prefers if I add a little water into the food as well, and also a packet of wet food mixed in. With his breakfast made, I go and set it down for him, give him a pat and tell him that he’s a good guy, and then go to wash my hands as he eats.

During the day, I work at my desk and he hangs out on the bed nearby, or wanders off and hangs out in another room for a while. Sometimes he and I glance at each other to say hi. Or, I may come over, and he’ll wag and we share a little licky wet fuzzy peck on the mouth with each other, staying there together for a moment, petting, cuddling, before I have to get back to work again.

He can tell when I’m stressing about something - he picks up on the more aggressive typing noises. He’ll make an uncomfortable noise, telling me that I should relax about whatever odd human thing it is that has me worked up. And to his credit, he’s right. We’ll go out for a little pee and sniff around, and come back decompressed, and I’ll find myself all the more thankful to him.

He has a remarkable sense of time. Twenty minutes before work is over, he’ll be watching me. Ten minutes before work is over, he’ll be making little vocalizations at me, canine mms and ows that mean come on, it’s time we go for our walk. He’s not the only one who’s happy when I can finally shut the computer off, throw on some shoes, and grab some bags. He follows me around from room to room as I get ready, wagging and telling me to keep it moving.

Finally I clip on his leash, and we go out for our long walk of the day, him getting to choose the way through miles of neighborhoods and trails, sniffing and exploring. Just like the morning walks, there are ways that he usually likes to go, but he also likes to explore new places, go down streets we’ve never been down, check out somewhere we’ve never been to. If not for him, I wouldn’t have half the sense of what the area right around where I live is like.

When we get back in I get him his dinner, and then we hang out, spending the evening together, whether that means reading a book while he has his chin on my foot, or whether that means both of us side by side, him standing, me on my hands and knees, both of us looking through the screen of the open window and sniffing and peering at the nighttime outside.

As it gets to be late enough, one or the other of us will make our way to bed first. Whoever didn’t go to bed first is usually soon to follow after the one who did. I wouldn’t choose any other way to fall asleep than side by side with a snoring bulk of fur, my hand resting on the big ol dog who I share this love with.

There is such a deep pleasantness to falling asleep in a warm cozy bed with a dog.

Article written by an anonymous author (October 2022)

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