Pia dog column by Charlotte.jpg

Illustration by Charlotte Dijkgraaf

The world may cry, even fall apart, but through it all, dogs keep doing their happy dances.

Every morning, my two dogs, Nala and Mila, wait for me to wake up. As soon as I blink an eye, their tails start wagging, and they push their wet noses into my face. When they are sure I really am awake, they start jumping around in anticipation of all the fun that awaits them.

Oh, the joy of a new day is endless. Think about all the food, the treats, the romps, and if they are lucky and I make soup, the leftover bones. Not to mention the smell of deer, the hunt after squirrels, the walk in the woods where they meet their friends, and in between all of that, lots and lots of naps.

While I fill their bowls with kibble, my newspaper, still in plastic, sits on the kitchen table. Covid, Afghanistan, fires, droughts, floods, my hairy ones are oblivious to all that. First things first. Sit! Wait! Go! The very thought makes them run in madcap circles outside — what we call “the zoomies.”

With so much sadness going on in the world, it is almost unbelievable so much happiness exists. You wonder if anyone, including them, is allowed to be that oblivious. But somehow, their cheerfulness helps me face the reality when I start reading the newspaper.

When I brought my dogs home years ago, a friend told me his Golden slept in his bedroom. “I love the sounds mammals make at night,” he said.

Really? I found that utterly unbelievable. Who wants to hear their dogs yawning, wheezing, and scratching when one sleeps? Who wants to hear their high-pitched dreaming sounds? No way I would allow mine upstairs.

But then Covid came, and I found myself lying awake often. One of those nights, I went to the kitchen to fix myself a cup of tea. The dogs, still sleepy, pushed their heads into my lap, demanding to be petted. I immediately felt better. When I stood up, they trotted after me. They seemed to think they deserved to come with me.

Upstairs, in my bedroom, they curled up on the floor without further ado. While I listened to their breathing the remaining of that night, I wondered if this was a good idea. Did I set a precedent? What if I could never sleep again because of their noises?

But, lo and behold, after a little while, like my friend, I grew to love those nocturnal mammal sounds. I find them wildly reassuring.

During Covid dogs became in high demand. What’s better than working from home with a dog resting his head on your feet? What beats a dog who listens to your rants about your boss, without telling you it was your fault.

Dogs’ mission to humanity is to just love you no matter what. They put things in perspective. That’s huge.

And they can even do this virtually. Dogs became popular influencers on social media. They have their own Tik Tok accounts. They cheer up their millions of followers by dressing up in funny outfits, running after their own tails, or by just being their sweet selves. They are our virtual therapy animals. The dog’s life is one we all need.

After all, we all are pack animals.

Pia de Jong is a Dutch writer who lives in Princeton. She can be contacted at pdejong@ias.edu.