Puppy Love: A Study of the Unconditional

February 21, 2021

Like true best friends, dogs are not just great companions – they also help us learn lessons that make us better versions of ourselves. Low Entropy Volunteer Writer Niklas Chiang introduces us to his own trusty canine pal, and recalls how she guided him to one of those revelations.

 

What is unconditional love? If you asked me anytime before today, I wouldn’t be able to answer you. Growing up in an immigrant household, I felt like love was conditional. I had to work to earn my parent’s love. If I misbehaved or didn’t get the mark I was supposed to get, then I was scolded. If the opposite happened, then I got praised, and sometimes, a gift. That was my view of love, and it lingers to this day. I believe, and still do to an extent, that there are conditions behind being loved by someone. I struggle to truly feel unconditional love, but despite these challenges, I’ve begun to understand what it means to give and receive unconditional love. When did this start to change? When my family got a second dog. I never knew this, but dogs, my dog and dogs I see on the streets, are incredible teachers. Let me explain.

 

I was walking to the SkyTrain station in downtown Vancouver late at night because I just got off work. As I waited for the light to turn green to cross the street, I looked to the other side of the road. I saw a man, who appeared to be living in poverty, walking with his dog. I watched their interaction. Whenever the dog needed to sniff, the man would patiently wait until the dog was finished. When it was time to go, the dog followed him. Watching this was amazing because it reminded me that both the man and his dog loved each other, no matter the circumstances. Although we have many prejudices, they do not seem to exist for dogs. The dog accepted his owner and loved him for who he was without judging his wealth, or lack of it. This is no different from loving our partners, families or friends. No matter the circumstances we find ourselves facing, we love each other unconditionally. We embrace the negative qualities and celebrate the positive ones. I’m not saying this comes naturally, but having seen how happy the dog was with his owner makes me believe it’s worth the effort. 

 

When I finally got home, it was late at night. I quietly opened the door to try and not make a sound. I began untying my shoe laces when I heard some scratches on our sliding door. I looked up to see my dog. She had woken up from her sleep to say hello to me. As tired as I was, I went to see her. She became ecstatic. She couldn’t stop walking circles around me. As I was petting her, it dawned on me that this wasn’t the first time she’d done this. Whenever I’d return home, she would always get up from her sleep to greet me. In turn, I would always pause and pet her. For her, as long as she can see that I am home, she will be by my side. Even when I do work, she lies near me, observes me for a bit, and then sleeps. If I move, she moves with me. While some of us like to hear “I love you,” a dog doesn’t have that ability. They express love differently. They could give you their favourite toy, or ask you to play with them, but my dog, she shows her love by following me constantly. That is important because it highlights how we can express unconditional love differently. We will not all have the same ways to express ourselves. Sometimes we see it, and sometimes we don’t. 

 

So I ask myself: what is unconditional love? The most obvious and direct answer is love that has no conditions, but it goes beyond this. Dogs have taught me that we should love someone with no prejudice. They highlight how love is both visible and invisible. I use their lessons to think back about my life. Did I really have conditioned love? Yes, absolutely. Was there unconditional love too? Yes, absolutely. Without my family, I wouldn’t have the food to eat, nor the education I got. Even though I’m not the greatest son, and have had my highs and lows, they accepted me for that and continued to provide. Without my parents, I wouldn’t be here today. To them, I say, “Thank you.” 

Who do you love, no strings attached – four-legged or otherwise? Let us know in the comments or at a Low Entropy event.

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