From time to time when I come home from work or shopping, Trucker is so happy to see me that he stops in front of me blocking my way, sits patiently and puts his front paws up like he’s begging.
I stop to acknowledge him and he places his front paws on my thighs as I bend down. He leaves them there, demanding what I have learned is a hug.
I have to embrace him, wrap my arms around him and tell him, “I love you.”
He then bounces on happily fulfilled.
I adopted Trucker at age 5 and between shelter workers and me, we learned tricks and commands that he knows. This touching act of hugging initially shocked me and brought tears to my eyes. I still wonder if he learned it before he met me, or simply developed the action based on how often I hug him. I hug him when he sleeps, when he stands, when he eats, whenever I get the chance.
The first time I cried in his presence, he trotted to me, put his front paws up on me and sniffed my face wanting to comfort me. I was so touched that I cried harder. I told him, “Thank you. I love you, too.”
One evening when I was working at my desk I sniffed a couple of times and Trucker, who was lying on my bed in an adjoining room, quickly raised his head and watched me from a distance. I could tell he was assessing if he should come to comfort me. I waved to him and said, “I love you,” and he watched me until he was sure I was okay.
His love and desire to hug doesn’t stop with me.
A friend visited our home one evening and started to cry over a family situation. Trucker rushed to her and with his long-legged, long-bodied self, stood on his hind legs and put his front paws on her chest. She embraced him in tears as he embraced her. When he felt she was consoled, he stood beside her.
On a visit to a pet-friendly pet supply store, Trucker began pulling me with his leash. I noticed that a young boy was approaching and Trucker wanted to greet him. Trucker abruptly sat in front of him, put his front paws up and they rested on the boy’s shoulders. The boy laughed as I told him, “He just wants to hug you.” They embraced. The boy laughed and then they parted. The scene made me tear up.
A neighbor who babysits Trucker has learned to accept his hugs. She is petite and Trucker’s front paws can reach way above her head if he stands on his hind legs in front of her. He’s managed to semi-delicately place them on her chest or shoulders as she tells him, “I love you, too.” Often he speaks to her over our chain link fence, his paws towering over the fence top and plopping against her shoulders.
Recently another neighbor stopped to visit as Trucker and I were in our front yard. She owns a little terrier named Jack who is the same age as Trucker and came from the same shelter.
As she talked to me about a past dog she owned that died, she started to cry. When her voice faltered, Trucker trotted to her, stood in front of her and raised up on his hind legs to put his front paws on her chest. A petite senior, she was startled, yet laughed and hugged him back. He left dirty paw prints on her white jacket and went back to playing with Jack.
Ironically I came across a story about hugging your dog on a website called Mother Nature Network. In the story, titled “Why dogs don’t like to be hugged,” a certified applied animal behaviorist noted that dogs in general do not like to be hugged and most assuredly would not hug back.
Hugs, the behaviorist said, show assertion of dominance, go against their social instincts as a species and in general on a “hugging like-dislike scale,” it is skewed towards “dislike” when it comes to dogs and hugs.
While some dogs may shy away from human hugs, Trucker loves to be embraced. Perhaps it’s similar to his love for being wrapped in blankets when he sleeps and sometimes an anti-anxiety wrap shirt when it storms.
After being discarded multiple times in his first five years of life, he seems to show thankfulness by returning hugs to people.
For humans, hugs can be healing when it comes to illness, anxiety, stress, loneliness and depression. The act of hugging builds trust, relaxes muscles and teaches us about love of self and others.
Trucker seems to know this. Hugging is another mysterious, beautiful, unique aspect of his personality that makes me, and others, smile.