A dog day afternoon, dogsitting Saturday.
Observation: The dog’s eyes constantly watching you. “What’s on now?” “Are you going to be sitting there for a while?” “Where are you going?” “Will you be back soon?” “Are we eating soon?”(one of my favorites) “Are we going out for a walk?” “Where’s my bathroom now?” “When will I be going homes?” An ongoing, neverending experience of observation and, in the humans’ case, one of being observed for various cues and information (pets easily seek info as much as humans).
Anticipation: For the pet, perpetually. Again to do with possibilities (pets’ lives being about possibilities as much as humans’)–anticipation, desire, hope–all for what might happen, especially for what is already doggily known to be possible.
Dependency: If you have ever owned a dog, the dependency of the animal on the owner for just about everything, including shelter, food, exercise, play, etc. And when the pet goes down–as in sickness or decline–you quickly find out about responsibilities you weren’t expecting, about the limits of your own caring and loyalty–very instructive and heart-wrenchingly taxing. The Price of Love.
All that I’ve just said applies to very young children who take their cues from their adult role models, who anticipate whatever family adventure or activity, and who need parents for everything from toilet-training to meals, to play, etc.
I will definitely say that taking care of both pet and child (or grandchild) are similar experiences, though the pet usually requires less engagement. The play possibilities are greater with the child, though I have seen the intelligence of poodles and their play, and know of how some breeds–like Jack Russells or Border collies need a lot of exercise. Of the heavy-to-carry dogs, like St. Bernard’s or Standard poodles, there are more implications for responsibility and difficulty just because of their sheer size.
Unconditional love? Especially obvious with dogs if you’ve ever ‘come home’. Children, too, though this excitement eventually diminishes: “Oh, hi, Mom.” Well, isn’t that the main reason why many people want to own a dog in their heart-of-hearts–that Lassie-like unconditional loyalty? Sometimes reciprocated when the human goes over the edge to save the animal in a life-or-death situation. Built-in strong, deep relationships quite often as much so as some human relationships.