Has Your Dog Ever Fallen in Love?
Did you read our story about the two stray, bonded dogs who ended up in a shelter in Terre Haute? The male, Ben, was adopted, but the other, a female, Jade, wasn't. Ben tried out his new family, but after a few weeks, he ran away. He traveled more than 10 miles in the cold winter of Indiana to get back to the shelter and to his girlfriend. He gave up the cushy new life he had found just to be with his girl.
Luckily, the family that adopted Ben saw how bonded they were and adopted Jade, too.
The story made me wonder about how dogs bond to each other, how the attachments form, and what, if anything, they are feeling. We all know some dogs just don’t get along -- some just tolerate each other only because their pet parents make them. Others, however, truly enjoy interacting with each other.
But does it go further than that? Can they be more than just friends? Can dogs fall in love?
I'm reminded of a time years ago when our chocolate Lab, Sally, met Rudy, the future love of her life.
We got Sally when she was just eight weeks old, a little bundle of chocolate goodness. At the time, we lived near Griffith Park in Los Angeles and we ran on the trails in the park almost every day. When Sally was old enough and strong enough, we started to take her with us.
Almost every day, I would take Sally on a simple, flat trail, and we would run or walk. We became regulars, and that meant seeing other regulars and their dogs each day on the trail. Sally loved the other dogs and would greet each of them with enthusiasm and a heartfelt play bow. But her favorite trailmate was Rudy. He was a big 120-pound Borzoi, whose head reached well above my waist and who towered over Sally. He ran with his brother Monty -- an even bigger Borzoi.
I remember the first time we ran into Rudy and Monty -- they were pretty intimidating. They were big and off-leash with only this slight woman,Liz, controlling them. I was nervous. Sally did her usual romp over to greet them, but Rudy went after her, snapping at her a bit as she tried to be flirty and fresh (she was still a pup). Monty was also grumpy. I made a mental note to avoid them in the future.
It seemed that Liz and I were on the same dog exercise schedule, and we started seeing them almost every day. I’d spy them down the trail and leash Sally. I didn’t like having to leash her, but I was worried what Rudy might do to her if she bothered him enough. Liz would grab her guys and we’d cross paths saying our good mornings holding our dogs away from each other.
Over time, Sally wore Rudy down. He got used to seeing us on the path and he no longer snapped at her and began to greet her as cheerfully as she greeted him. Once we got over that hurdle, we began walking and running with Liz and her dogs, and Liz and I became friends. We developed a small pack, consisting of her dogs Rudy and Monty, my dog Sally, and a neighbor’s dog, Ralph, whom we would bring along for some exercise. We were a sight.
Rudy and Sally started to get along fine, usually sticking together at the back of the pack so they could stop and sniff and then run to catch up. They loved to play chase, and even though Rudy could outrun Sally (he ran like the wind), the game was always initiated by her, and he always pursued until he caught up to her, and then she’d do a quick drop and roll and run in the opposite direction.
It wasn’t until Liz and I started spending time together outside of the park that the true affection between Sally and Rudy became apparent. We’d be at one of our homes, maybe having dinner or just hanging out. What would typically start as a rambunctious game of chase would end with the two of them lying on the floor next to each other. At first it would be a fairly feverish game of bite-face, but then it would slowly morph into what could only be called a make-out session. It was embarrassing.
They would move in slow motion, turning over on their backs then onto their sides with their legs entwined, rubbing their faces together, running their front paws over each other’s face, and then licking and kissing like crazy. Sally would even put her full snout into Rudy’s mouth.
Many times we sat there watching them and almost felt the need to leave the room. They had both been fixed so there were no worries about any unwanted pups, but their desire to be touching each other was crystal clear. They were truly infatuated with each other.
Each day, when we got to the park, Sally would run to greet him and jump up and smooch him on the face. They would run off together, paying no attention to the rest of us. When we parted each day after our run, many times Rudy would jump into our car -- or Sally into his -- so they could be together.
Eventually we moved away from Los Feliz and that stopped our daily outings with Rudy and Liz. Although we saw them occasionally (we would visit the park when we could), our time together became less and less frequent, until Liz moved as well. Then, the visits stopped altogether.
Near our new home, there were many new and fun dogs on the trails -- and we even got a second dog, Tino. But Sally barely acknowledged them. She treated Tino as more of an interloper than a pal.
The truth is, she never again showed any signs of feelings for another dog like she displayed for Rudy. Sometimes I feel bad that we separated them. I guess it’s like that first love of your life, who you meet in summer camp and never see again.
What do you think? Do you think dogs can fall in love? Has your dog ever fallen in love? Let's hear your story in the comments!
Kate and her husband, Steve, live in Camarillo, CA, with their dogs SlimDoggy Jack and Maggie May. They are animal advocates and are active in the dog rescue and foster community. They write about their adventures with their dogs and about pet obesity, health, and fitness on the Slim Doggy website, Facebook, and Twitter.