Good friends can help pull us through our worst times. While we often rely on friends for words of advice, consolatory embraces, or shoulders to cry on, some of our very best friends have neither mouths, arms, nor shoulders to offer us. Instead, these friends scamper to us on four legs and provide us with something even more valuable: unconditional love. I discovered this myself during one of my worst days, when my golden retriever, Winston, lifted me from the depths of despair and raised my spirits at a time when I needed him most.
The day began ominously. Thunderstorms had knocked out the electricity at some point overnight, because I woke up to a flashing clock and the realization that I had no time to shower or get myself ready for school. I hurriedly got dressed, gathered my belongings, and rushed out of the house, desperate to make it to my first class on time. To my dismay, I was unsuccessful; I strode into class ten minutes late, my hair a mess and my appearance unkempt, with the eyes of an entire class laughing at me. I sat down quickly to hide my shame.
By lunch, I was in shambles. I had planned to wake up early that morning to cram for an important test, but the power outage had wrecked those plans and left me in dire straits. I have always been a good student and doing well on tests was something my teachers and I came to accept as a given. This day, however, would prove to be an exception to the norm. With little studying under my belt, I wound up not even answering many of the questions on the test. I left school that day with my head hung low, feeling disheartened and drained of my self-esteem.
When I arrived home, Winston was waiting for me by the door. As always, his joy upon seeing me was palpable, and as he frantically wagged his tail and covered me with licks, I began to feel better. Here was a friend I could count on to not care about my haggard appearance, my tardiness, or my academic disappointment. There was no need to speak about my rough day or dwell upon my gloom; all he wanted was to share some fresh air as we went on our daily walk together. As I led Winston through the neighborhood my spirits rose, and I realized that no matter how low I felt about myself, he would always love me just the same - unconditionally.
Dogs have often been called "man's best friend." Though they may not be able to offer the verbal support and encouragement human friends can, through pet ownership their friendship shines through in the way they accept us, without judgment, despite our flaws and mistakes. Sometimes this silent confirmation is what we need most to lift us when we are down.