A tall, middle-aged man just walked into Pastry Art, my favorite coffee shop and bakery in downtown Sarasota. He opened the door a smidge and squeezed through, barring the large Golden Retriever that accompanied him from entering.
“Stay outside,” he said, pointing to one of the tables near the curb. The dog walked away temporarily, but the minute the man stepped to the counter to order he returned and plunked his butt squarely in front of the door. With nose touching glass and tongue lolling out of his mouth, the Retriever watched his master’s every move. His panting fogged the glass in an ever growing circle that impaired his view but still he sat, immobile and fixated on his master.
Eventually, another customer came along. The moment the door was cracked open, the Retriever dashed inside and ran to his master. “Go outside!” the man said sternly, as he opened the door and pointed to the curb. Dejectedly, the Retriever returned to his place under the table, waiting for the moment when they could be reunited. When the man finally stepped outside, the Retriever could barely contain his joy, greeting his master with wagging tail and nuzzles.
Throughout the whole incident, the man frowned and scowled. From the way he petted and spoke to the Retriever while they sat together at the curbside table, it was obvious that he loves the dog. But I couldn’t help wondering if he knows how lucky he is to be the recipient of such love and devotion.
This incident started me thinking about the fact that animals, much more than humans, seem to have a capacity for unconditional love. Recently I’ve come across two stories that illustrate this. The first is a YouTube video of two otters at the Vancouver Aquarium in Vancouver, Canada, who float around holding hands. It is too cute; you just have to see it:
The second is a story about the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee, where elephants go when they retire. Each elephant, upon arriving at the sanctuary, chooses a companion with whom they share the rest of their lives. The are, of course, pachyderm pairs. Except for Tarra and Bella. Tarra is an 8,700 pound Asian elephant, and Bella is one of more than a dozen stray dogs that have found a home at the sanctuary. Tarra and Bella are BFF’s (“Best Friends Forever,” for those of you who are not clued into Internet shorthand). Even the staff at the sanctuary did not understand the commitment between this unlikely duo until recently. Take good look at this couple, America. Take a good look world. If they can do it – what’s our excuse?