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How to Love a Dog, by Forbes Melton-Moran

My names is Forbes and I’m four years old, give or take. I was a stray in Georgia, rescued from death row by a sort of underground railroad and a woman who smoked a lot and fed me chicken soup and hot dogs. She didn’t know I had heartworm disease when she put me up for adoption in the front of a Petco in New York City.

That’s where I met my mom. It was love at first sight, although I tried to maintain my autonomy on those first walks (I didn’t want to seem desperate). She and my new dad found a really cool vet to cure my heart without doing anything scary, and for my part, I’ve tried to teach my adopted family how to love a dog. This is what I tell them, and I’ll bet your dog is trying to say some pretty similar stuff to you.

Forbes + Victoria, 1st Meeting

Meeting my mom, October 2012

  1. When I’m alone, I’m miserable. Yeah, I sleep some (I’m up in the night quite a bit looking out for you guys) and it helps to have music playing and a chewy to gnaw, but dogs didn’t evolve to appreciate solitude, so we don’t. A few hours I can deal with; more than that – well, I get it why some dogs tear stuff up.
  1. Make a big-deal reunion about coming home. I’m always up for it, even if you just went to the store for a carton of almond milk.
  1. Snuggle with me. Rub my tummy and under my arms, around my shoulders, and behind my ears. Other than tail and paws, I am one hundred percent massage-ready. I know you talk all the time and you probably tell me you love me, but when you rub me, I know you do.
  1. Try to understand what it’s like to live in two distinct cultures. Most of the time, I’m in the human world. I’ve learned what humans want – no growling, no licking my private parts when company comes, no barking unless there’s a serious threat (and I’m supposed to know that how?) – but when I go to the dog park, I get into running and rolling and chasing and digging and sniffing other dogs like I’m one generation removed from the wolf. It’s my nature. Transitioning from dog rules to people rules and back again is tough. Give me a break.
  1. I communicate with you all the time. Tail up means happy; tail down means sad or afraid (or that the music is really awful – like that guy on the street who plays the saw). Wagging my tail is the way I smile. If I whine or cry, it’s serious: I’m either sick or terrified. And when I look at you like you’re the best person anywhere, that’s what I mean.
  1. Skateboards are my mortal enemy. I go nuts when I see or hear one. You’ll never understand it, but let me give you some keywords: spiders. Heights. Dark alleys at night. Snakes. An IRS audit. Get it? We’re all afraid of something.
  1. I love having different experiences and seeing (and smelling) new places. If you’re going anywhere that dogs are allowed, please take me. I can go to the farmers’ market, Bed, Bath, & Beyond, the Apple store, and the fancy department stores where you may not want to buy anything, but we can look (and sniff).
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Photo by Dianne Wenz, VLCE,

  1. As much as I hate to admit it, I need you to take care of me. Even though I survived as a stray eating scraps off the street, my survival skills don’t extend to knowing how many treats are too many or that chocolate, which sure smells good, is bad for me. Just because I act as if you’ve gravely offended me when you clean my ears, or put that anti-flea-and-tick stuff on me – well, thanks.

  1. Play ball with me. OMG, play ball with me. Some dogs like tug-o-war. Some dogs are into sticks. But for me, it’s take me out to the ballgame! You can tell: every time you pick up my ball, I get so excited that I jump off the floor with all four limbs. Does anything else cause that? No — not even the high-intensity treats. Side note: when you put my toys away, if you touch the ball, I think we’re gonna play. At least toss it a couple times. Otherwise it would be like Daddy taking you to a jewelry store to “window shop.”
  1. Keep it calm, okay? If you’re upset I think it’s me and it triggers my abandonment issues. (All right, so I’ve watched Dr. Phil a couple of times….)
  1. When I approach you, it’s because I need something – probably your attention. I’m not being greedy or annoying. I’m a dog. I ask for what I need, and if I don’t need something, I don’t ask. (Well, okay, sometimes I beg as if I’ve never eaten in my life, but my personal history and my species history has a lot of not-enough-to-eat in it. You can say no, but I figure if I keep asking, sometimes you’ll say yes.)
  1. Include me in the family in every possible way. You’re my pack. That’s a concept you’ll never understand; the closest you’ll come is to treat me like one of your kids. I’ll accept that, even though I’m not a juvenile – I’m a full-grown canine who could get by in the wild as part of a pack. But this isn’t the wild. I count on you. And I’ll be there for you no matter what.
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Portrait by Lily Ochoa, a vegan artist in Texas who does companion animal portraits from photographs:

Forbes Melton-Moran is the adopted dog of Victoria Moran, author of Main Street Vegan and The Good Karma Diet, and her husband, William Melton. Forbes works for Main Street Vegan Academy in the position of substitute dog, allowing students who’ve come from afar and miss their companion animals to have someone to pet and play with. He enjoys shopping, digging, visiting his big sister, Adair, and her dogs, Oliver and Tala, and playing the NYC apartment game beloved by dogs for generations: hall ball.


  1. Oh, I just adore this! Forbes is such a cool dude. I think Tucker would agree with a lot of his points, too!

  2. I love you, Forbes! <3

  3. Hi Forbes,
    You are brilliant! We humans have so much to learn from dogs and other animals. Thank you for sharing these insights in a way that we can understand. You rock!