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Note from dog
I’m Ruby! I’m the star of this month’s Companionship story, Ruby, My Dear, along with my two humans, Lucian Truscott IV and Tracy Harris.
From My Dog House to Yours
Howler’s Hill

The Chronicles of Brooklyn: Lessons from a (Mostly) Good Dog

Lesson #1: Greet Everyone You Encounter With Great Cheer and Enthusiasm.

Brooklyn, looking pensive

Illustration by John Burgoyne

Hello!!! Welcome to Love, Dog!!!! So wonderful to have you here!!!!!!

Now, as the Human Executive Editor of Love, Dog, as well as the author of this new monthly column about my dog, Brooklyn, I do indeed welcome you to the magazine with all sincerity. Still, I feel I should admit the truth: that I hardly ever greet anyone with such fervor, much less a stranger such as you. Lately, though, I've been thinking about modeling more of my behavior after my dog, Brooklyn—who is, after all, one of the wisest creatures I know—and this includes how she says hello: with great brightness and impossible enthusiasm. (So, in case you were wondering, that's the reason for all those exclamation points above. If Brooklyn could put pen to paper, I have no doubt that all her sentences would end with at least three!!!)

Image of Brooklyn saying hello

Brooklyn saying hello

Photo by Lizzy Plimpton

What if everyone greeted you as your dog does? Would it be heart-warming and self-affirming, or overwhelming and possibly a little annoying? Yes, and yes. Of course, the current way we tend to say hello to each other isn't exactly inspiring. As human beings, our salutations are so sullen, sometimes, so reserved. "Oh. Hi." I don't know what our problem is. It's like we've gotten into the strange habit of hiding our delight, like it was ingrained in us long ago to never let our shine truly shine.

With Brooklyn, on the other hand, there is no reservation, no holding back. She cannot help herself, and does not want to. She sees someone she loves—and the truth is she loves everyone, not just me or my wife or son—and she wags her tail with such abandon that she sometimes knocks them off-balance with her butt. And she's not even that big a dog. Madam Wiggle-Butt, we call her sometimes.

It doesn't matter whether you're a dog or a human—when you're recognized in this way, it feels really good.

The natural instinct when greeted with such openness and love is to respond in kind, and so that's what we do: "Oh, hello, good girl! Yes, I see you! Yes, hello!" And Brooklyn contorts and wags and circles around and around, looking up at us with bright, appreciative eyes, nudging us with her wet gorilla nose and getting patted contentedly. Brooklyn, after all, likes to be acknowledged, too.

In a sense, this is all that's really happening here—a kind of mutual acknowledgment of each other's presence—but it's amazing how powerful these moments can be, how crucial it is to recognize, and fully appreciate, the creature in front of you, their simple yet remarkable existence. And it doesn't matter whether you're a dog or a human—when you're recognized in this way, it feels really good.

Image of Brooklyn, looking wise

Brooklyn, the author's wise and (mostly) good dog

Photo by Lizzy Plimpton

Of course, it's easy—and socially acceptable—to engage in this way with a dog: something about them, their easy, loving nature, cuts through all those social barriers, all that nonsense and awkwardness. With our fellow humans, however, issues remain. Yes, Brooklyn's lesson, to try to greet everyone you encounter with great enthusiasm, isn't exactly practical, especially in a bustling city, where if you tried to say hello to everyone, you'd never make it five blocks—not to mention that people would look at you like you were crazy (if they bothered to look at you at all). It is a strange world we live in. Consider your basic elevator ride—the absurdity of the fact you're standing shoulder-to-shoulder with fellow human beings and you're not even supposed to smile and say hi. (In an elevator, Brooklyn would have a blast—and as long as they liked dogs, so would everyone else.)

To brighten a fellow animal's day, all you have to do is say hello.

What holds us back? What sets a dog free? With Brooklyn, there seems nothing but fur between her bright spirit and the world. There is nothing hidden. When she is happy, she is happy, and her wagging tail declares it. When she is sad, she is sad—those mournful brown eyes, her chin on her paws.

We humans are more complicated creatures, no doubt, and to continually express ourselves as freely as dogs—well, that would most likely result in chaos. Still, while Brooklyn's lesson may not be the most easily applicable, it remains a good reminder: how we greet each other is indeed important. Consider, for instance, the simple truth that to brighten a fellow animal's day, all you have to do is say hello.

And it doesn't have to be this big, elaborate thing, either. A friendly nod can mean the world, sometimes. A smile only takes a second.

In the end, there's no real good reason we shouldn't be brave enough to express our appreciation for the people we love—and for everyone else, too. After all, from Brooklyn's perspective, everyone is worth saying hello to with delight—well, except at times for certain other dogs, whom she enjoys barking at viciously.

Taylor Plimpton

Taylor Plimpton is the Human Executive Editor of Love, Dog, where he also writes a column about his dog, Brooklyn. Plimpton is the author of "Notes from the Night: A Life After Dark," and is the coeditor of "The Dreaded Feast: Writers on Enduring the Holidays." He contributes regularly to The New Yorker and Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. He is currently at work on a new collection of essays, "Who My Dog Thinks I Am: True Tales."


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