The love of a dog for its owner is well documented, and the term “unconditional” usually gets included in the text. It is often extended to include the belief that we can learn from dogs re love!
Gilda Radner is attributed with: “I think dogs are the most amazing creatures. They give unconditional love. For me, they are the role model for being alive.”
Robert Wagner is attributed with: “A dog will teach you unconditional love. If you can have that in your life, things won’t be too bad.”
It’s a lovely sentiment, especially for dog lovers, but unconditional? Really?
Johnny Depp is attributed with: “The only creatures that are evolved enough to convey pure love are dogs and infants.”
I am not sure how “pure love” compares with “unconditional love“, but it would seem to be pretty close!
Carol and I were discussing this the other day (and in front of Ray so he knew what was going on!), and we had to question the “unconditional” part!
M.K. Clinton is attributed with: “The world would be a nicer place if everyone had the ability to love as unconditionally as a dog.”
M.K. Clinton allows a little latitude there with “as unconditionally as” a dog! There is no mention of “unconditional love” per se, but just an inference that dogs have love better defined than most humans!
Josh Billings is attributed with: “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”
Again, there is no suggestion of “unconditional love”, but rather just the perspective that our canine friends are ahead of us in the “love business”!
So what was the outcome of our conversation? Much as we love our beloved Ray, we had to conclude that his “unconditional love” probably had conditions attached! Obviously we love him far too much to test this perception of dogs, but we had to ask ourselves:
“How much would he love us if we were inconsiderate of his needs?”
“How much would he love us if we did not feed him?”
“How much would he love us if we were cruel to him?”
“Unconditional” can only be defined as “without conditions”, and yet it would seem that a dog’s love for its owner would have conditions. The association of “unconditional love” with dogs would therefore appear to be more of a romantic notion rather than an aspect of their character.
Looking over at Ray, and adding what we have learned over the past few years, I would suggest that while I see no evidence to support “unconditional love”, there is ample evidence that we can learn from them in the areas of forgiveness, acceptance, caring and loyalty… all of which are surely components of a loving relationship.
So to Ray, I have to say: “The perception that your species gives unconditional love is really questionable however, your demonstration of love for us is more comprehensive than that which so many humans demonstrate. i.e. Your reputation may be a little exaggerated, but you’re still way ahead of us!”