Before there was Harvey, there was Mudge. He was the fattest most lovable chocolate lab you could ever imagine. It has been a year since he passed and I still find myself missing him everyday.
People often told me they could see the love in his sweet brown eyes for me. Every time I looked at his smile and titled eyebrows, I could see it too. I couldn’t help but wonder though, does my dog actually love me?
There have been doubts that dogs are capable of love and instead what they feel for their owners is just loyalty. However, scientists have begun to take more interest in the subject in recent years and have made some remarkable discoveries that any dog owner probably already knew.
Yes, your dog does love you.
Did you know that both you and your dog’s oxytocin levels rise whenever you look each other in the eyes? If you’re not familiar with oxytocin, it’s considered the “love hormone,” because levels of it increase when we do things such as hug a loved one. Every time your dog looks into your eyes, they are exploding with love for you.
That’s part of the reason scientists were able to determine your dogs emotions, but how do you know it to be true?
Well, for most dog owners this is a simple question. To answer, I’m going to refer to moments with Mudge where I knew he truly loved me.
The Way He Looked At Me
We’ve already touched on this above, but I think its something to take note on. A dog that loves you will hold eye contact forever because they just can’t get enough of you.
Mudge would always tilt his eyebrows back and forth as he smiled and stared at me. No matter how much of a mess I looked like, his chocolate eyes held nothing but love for me.
He Was Always By My Side
It didn’t matter what time of day it was or who was with me, Mudge was always by my side. I could be lying sick on the couch for the entire day while other dogs were running through the house playing and he would just sit guard by my side.
How He Always Rested His Head on Me
They say big dogs lean on you to show affection and love. Mudge always burrowed his head into me instead.
I would be sitting next to him and his head would always be burrowed into my neck or arms.
He Trusted Me
Mudge absolutely hated having his nails trimmed. My mother and brother would have to hold all 90 pounds of him down as he panicked and fought them the entire time.
One day I decided to do it myself and he simply laid there and didn’t flinch at all. Something that terrified him so much didn’t bother him a bit because I was the one doing it.
He trusted me with his life, and I trusted him with mine.
He Kept Me Safe
Mudge was the type of dog anyone could love. With his fluffy tail and laid back demeanor, anyone could pet him.
He was always great in public and never had a bad moment with any other dog. Rarely would you ever hear him do his “big boy bark” we called it. He always barked in a softer tone when asking to go out, but whenever something was wrong his deep bark would arise.
We live on a back road and don’t have very many people go by often. When they did, Mudge never bothered them a bit. I always knew when someone going by wasn’t to be trusted though because his “big boy bark” would come out and he would stand between me and them.
I always trusted him to keep me safe, even with his laid back demeanor. I knew he would be there for me if it ever truly mattered.
Does Your Dog Know You Love Them?
It was obvious that I knew Mudge loved me, but as I held him while he took his last breaths, I couldn’t help but wonder if he knew how much I loved him.
This seems to be a common question from other dog owners too. We will dive deeper into in our next article when we ask Harvey about it.
However, until then I had to do some research myself.
Yes, Your Dog Knows You Love Them
Every time you look into your dog’s eyes, they know you love them. Those long stares filled with oxytocin prove your love to them.
Every time you feed and cuddle them, they are reassured of your love. Play time and snuggle time are great bonding moments for the two of you.
After I lost Mudge, my heart was torn to pieces. There’s a poem by Patrick Hart that has always stuck with me because I feel it describes the emotion well. It goes like this.
“This is not a poem.
Today I was approached by a complete stranger while walking my dog. She said that hers had passed away a season ago. She’s woken up at the same time every morning since and walked the same path they walked together for 14 years. She said that she misses him, but finds comfort in their routine.
This is not a poem. The love in her sadness was.”
Months passed and I did not find comfort in our routine. Driving to catch the sunset without him only brought me tears. I would catch myself reaching my hand out expecting him to be there, but he was gone.
Finally I realized I needed a new companion. Although they could never replace what Mudge and I had, they could help me get through life without him.
Bringing Home Harvey
At first I planned on buying another chocolate lab. After many mishaps and high prices, I was left feeling hopeless.
My best friend had this huge brown dog that I absolutely adored. I always told him I wanted one just like it. Then quite by mistake, that dog became a father.
At first I didn’t claim a puppy because I still had my heart set on a chocolate lab. A few days after yet another let down on the chocolate lab puppy pursuit, I went to visit my best friend.
There were only two puppies left and I fell instantly in love with my Harvey Boy. Since then, it has been nothing but love and cuddles between me and my handsome boy.
My heart still aches when I think about Mudge, but Harvey does a good job filling the hole in my heart. I know Harvey loves me, just as Mudge did.
All the moments we spend looking into each others eyes, I know Harvey knows I love him too.
There is something special about a dog’s love that can not be described. The best I can do is leave you with this.
Although our shadows fall at different lengths, you walk beside me as an equal. Many wouldn’t agree, but how could I dare to ever treat you differently than how you treat me. Our hands are not the same, but we still hold each other's hearts. You fill my life with light and adventure and I only hope I fill yours with just as much. If I could guarantee we would walk the same path forever, I would. I just hope the set of prints left behind go on for years as we journey side by side.