I once had a friend that made it almost impossible for anyone to like him. At the worst of times he was someone that you did not want to be around unless you were looking for a fight. At the best of times he was an insufferable ass between arguments; he knew it all and he’d done it all and there was nothing in this world that could change him.
To be fair he probably came by this honestly. He grew up dirt poor on a reservation and had a bad case of Napoleon’s Complex prone to some men of shorter stature. He felt a need to prove everything to everyone, often at the point of his fist.
These traits worked well for him in Vietnam where he served as a tunnel rat; crawling into tiny, often booby trapped tunnels, with a hand gun and a flash light to flush his enemy out.
I met him the day I began working for a company where he had been for quite some time. We needed to establish a working relationship and it immediately became clear that he was not going to be easy to get along with. We had a “scuffle” the very first day.
Turned out that fight was the best thing I could have done if I wanted to keep working there. He gave me a little more respect than he did most people. This allowed us to coexist and eventually even develop a close friendship; a friendship that was brought about by a dog.
After working with him for 6 months, he invited me to his house for a beer and a burger; I almost didn’t go. We were able to function at work without laying hands on one another or having too many screaming matches, but we were not fast friends. I really didn’t see any point in putting up with his crap outside the workplace; I went anyway.
When I arrived at his house he was in his back yard rolling around on the ground wrestling with a Blue Heeler who was giving better than he got. This man who never smiled and was always the most serious person in any room was rolling around on the ground laughing and squealing like a two year old being tickled by his parents.
I stood their dumbfounded for 15 minutes as I watched this man, quite possibly one of the hardest and most ornery I’d ever met, play with a joy and abandon to envy. I realized then and there that there was humanity in this person that was worth getting to know; it just took a dog to bring it out.
One of the things about this story that I find warming is the fact that it is not unique. There are many people out there who need an animal to reveal their human nature. Perhaps that is why dogs have evolved alongside us for so long a time; they make us more human.