Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Friendship

Every now and then, when I have had a tough day at work, or when I need advice, or when I just feel the need to giggle a little, I will whip out my berry and fire off a PIN to some of my favourite ladies.

"Ladies, I need my girls. Quick drink at 5:30?"

And then I eagerly await the vibration of the multiple responses, hoping that we can all find that sweet spot window between our work days and our evening home obligations to spend a few fleeting moments together. Not because I like to drink (ahem). But because sometimes, there is nothing better than laughing a little with your best pals.

Friends are special people. Sure, family members and spouses are special too. But they kind of have to be there for you when you need them. I mean, there's blood and vows involved. But not friends. They are hanging out with you because they actually like you - no pretending involved.

And so it's no surprise that some of the most important relationships of my life have been those that I have developed with the friends who have seen me through life's emergencies, victories and defeats. From the two guys that I spent most of my university time with (in a campus bar) watching football and singing karaoke, to the two girls that I spent the rest of my university time with (in a campus bar) talking about boys, to the ladies that I now share a glass of wine with (in a downtown bar) to discuss life frustrations in general, I have been lucky enough to share a lot of laughs and a lot of support with a lot of special people.

Not to mention a lot of drinks... So I guess I do like drinking...

Anyway...

The importance of friendships surpasses the human world. Doggy experts everywhere agree that socialization is one of the cornerstones to having a healthy and balanced dog. Based on my own experience, I tend to agree. The dogs that I have known in my life who aren't properly socialized (like the next door neighbour's Boston Terriers) are unfriendly, aggressive, bored, and lonely.  This is why hubby and I spend so much of our time in dog parks - to properly socialize the Beast so that he can grow up to be a good canine citizen.

Well, that's the trainer's reason for letting him run around with other dogs. But there is a more heartfelt reason for our twice-daily treks to the dog park. I truly believe that the Beast has formed some special friendships with a few special dogs. (And by special, I mean the ones who like him despite his insistent play-with-me-now-or-I-will-bark-in-your-ear attitude). So this is a little tribute to the Beast's three bestest friends.

First there is Murphy, the German Shepherd/Border Collie mix who hangs out in the Arboretum on Saturday mornings. I knew that there would be an instant connection between the two of them the second they spotted each other across the way. Both of them got down into the typical Border Collie crouch and gave each other the typical Border Collie eye, waiting for the other to make the first move. Murphy, being the youngest of the two, bolted first, and the Beast took off like a shot after him, chasing him around and around a wide circle. All of the Beast's finest herding skills - including hip checks and barking - were on display as he moved Murphy back toward the humans. When Murphy had had enough of being chased, he slammed on the brakes, turned around, and began to herd the Beast, using the exact same moves which are clearly engrained in Border Collie DNA. For ten minutes, we three humans just stood there, watching in amazement as our dogs became the perfect mirror images of one another, their deep satisfaction evident by the goofy grins pasted on their panting muzzles. Such kindred spirits they became in that short period of time, that it broke my heart a tiny bit to tear them apart.

Then there is Sampson, the German Shepherd. Sampson is HUGE. I mean, he must outweigh the Beast by 60lbs. To many - dogs and humans alike - he must look imposing. But I am an eternal lover of German Shepherds, so the minute I met him, I was in love. I didn't actually think that the Beast would share my admiration for this big strapping boy, since he generally prefers dogs his size or smaller who he will have a better chance to dominate. But Sampson took a liking to the Beast, and perhaps the Beast felt that he had no choice but to take a liking back. Ever since their first meeting, they have spent countless hours wrestling together in the snow bank outside of the local arena, until they are both so tired that they can do no more than lie on their sides and futilely swat at the air around them. And even as their tongues are dragging on the ground, they whine and protest as soon as it is time to go to their respective homes.

But the most special pal of them all - the Beast's BFF, if you will - is Ruby, the Black Lab. The Beast met Ruby one morning this summer when he and I were finishing up a run and stopped in at the local dog park for a good sniff. It was 6:30 in the morning, earlier than our usual arrival time, so I wasn't actually sure that there would be any dogs to play with. But as we turned into the park, the Beast's ears perked up with anticipation as he sensed the presence of another canine. I let him off his leash and he bounded up to the top of the hill, where he caught his first glimpse of Ruby, playing fetch with her human below. From the moment that he ran full speed down the hill and plowed her over in his excitement, to this very evening when he met her in the park just a few hours ago, the Beast has longed for Ruby's company. She is the full package. She lets him chase her. She chases him. She plays fetch with him. She wrestles with him. She plays keep-away (the stick or the ball) with him. And even better, because she is the most docile creature I've ever met, she always lets him win. The Beast loves her so much that if another dog - male or female - dares to come near her as they are engaged in play, he will unleash a vitriol of barking so shrill that windows across the street are likely to shatter. I have spent many a morning watching these two young friends greet the sunrise together with a rousing game of any-of-the-above games. It is, I am convinced, the purest form of happiness.

Which is, after all, what my best friendships have always brought to my own life: uncomplicated joy.

And the occassional drink.

Which reminds me, it's been awhile since I got the girls together...