Look Into My Eyes

Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time gazing into eyes. Specifically, puppy eyes. The 9 pups of Georgia’s litter are in that lovely 4+ week old stage where they can and do make direct, unflinching, clear, steady eye contact. No prompts necessary. No training or treats — just show up, be there, and these puppies seek out the contact.

They gaze calmly, serenely, and with interest. And we gaze right back. On each end there seems to be the same question, “Who are you?” Mutually interested, mutually engaged, we do this over and over, endlessly fascinated.

Many years ago, two trainers from Holland were visiting the farm, and offered to lend a hand by entertaining some of that summer’s litter while we attended to other things. Done with our chores, we were discussing how the pups had done with their new friends. One trainer noted with amazement that she had been surprised to see how readily and freely the puppies made eye contact without any prompting or cues. My husband and I glanced at each other, a bit puzzled. Why wouldn’t puppies make eye contact with people?

We have puzzled over that trainer’s comment for years. Why wouldn’t puppies (or any animal) make eye contact, seek engagement, enjoy our company? When a puppy looks our way, we notice, respond. In short, we’re available for relationships, for connection, for conversation. We live very closely with our puppies when we are raising them, offering countless opportunities to connect and discover the value of human/dog relationships. They leave us well versed in the power of eye contact, and eager to connect with people.

Anyhow, freshly smitten with the dark old soul eyes that puppies and babies seem to share, I came across this splendid quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, writing in Behavior: The Conduct of Life.

“The glance is natural magic. The mysterious communication established across a house between two entire strangers, moves all the springs of wonder. The communication by the glance is in the greatest part not subject to the control of the will. It is the bodily symbol of identity of nature. We look into the eyes to know if this other form is another self, and the eyes will not lie, but make a faithful confession what inhabitant is there. The revelations are sometimes terrific.”

Take a moment to look — really look – into the eyes of those you love.