As Valentine’s Day draws near, husbands, wives, and couples young and old are shopping for jewelry, chocolates and other thoughtful gifts to show their affection.

Today, husbands, wives, and couples young and old received jewelry, chocolates and other thoughtful gifts.

High school sweethearts received concert tickets or exchanged music playlists.

Secret admirers in middle school dropped cards and candy hearts in bags taped to the objects of their affections’ desks.

It’s a familiar scene each year as Feb. 14 approaches.

We all know the story. Valentine’s Day rolls around and greeting card companies and other merchants make a ton of money while countless Americans inevitably fall further into debt — after all, love isn’t true till it’s expressed with a diamond necklace, charm bracelet or gold wristwatch, right?

This year, the News Bulletin isn’t concerned with the materialistic, bank-breaking part of Valentine’s Day.

Nor are we interested in its antagonistic counterpart, Singles Awareness Day.

Rather, we wanted to focus on a less publicized relationship: not between husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, other lovers or “It’s complicated” pairings.

This week, we will celebrate puppy love.

No, not the instant relationship between angst-filled, adoring high-school students with raging hormones and drama in spades.

Not the Paul Anka song, either. (But yes, to the 17-year-old in that song — and the one in the Donny Osmond cover, for that matter — your situation actually is “puppy love.” Get over it.)

But I digress.

Instead of those familiar cases, we use the term quite literally, as high school students’ revolving door of instant crushes can’t match the bond between a dog and its owner.

Love at first sight

We all know someone who treats his or her canine companion as more of a family member and less of a pet.

Carly, my brother’s English springer spaniel, receives constant cuddling, rubbing and affection when she enters the room. She’s allowed to eat her kibble in the kitchen and sleep in his bedroom. He shows her off around town, talks about how she stole the show when he showed her off, and instantaneously sings songs about her.

We didn’t grow up that way — sure, we had countless dogs and cats over the years, but they all lived outside. Mom wanted it to stay that way, too; a house was no place for an animal.

But with Carly, it was love at first sight.

I realized that on the day my brother adopted her from a breeder who used her for seven years to produce purebreds. Part of the satisfaction in adopting a dog — especially one whom we insist is special, like Carly — comes from knowing we show her more affection in a weekend than she probably ever received during her time on that ranch. 

Parenting dogs

I have friends who treat their dogs as they would their babies. One woman says caring for her pint-sized, extremely hyperactive Maltese provides valuable training for future parenthood; she even calls the dog her “boy,” her “child” and her “heart.”

Who can blame her?

Spend just a few minutes with them and it’s clear that the pair share something special. I’ve spent countless hours with them and know it’s a bond I’d hate to see broken — inevitably — by a canine’s short life expectancy.

She had him since he was a pup. Since then, she’s been his sole provider, feeding him, sheltering him and maintaining his health. She fulfills his needs and, by definition, parents him.

A mystical bond

What is this connection between humans and canines that makes these animals inseparable from their owners?

This bond spurred attorney George Graham Vest to argue for judgment against a sheep farmer who killed a Missouri man’s foxhound in 1869.

He stated in his landmark closing argument, "The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog."

These words became immortal, inscribed on a historical marker in Owensboro, Ky., Vest’s birth state.

The phrase “man’s best friend” purportedly precipitated from the closing argument.

A statue commemorating Old Drum, the foxhound who met the business end of a neighbor’s gun, stands before the Johnson County Courthouse in Warrensburg, Mo.

All this for a dog — or, more important, for the love of dogs.

That’s some bond.

But Vest’s speech told half the story. Canine companionship extends well beyond company for the lonely when it becomes a healing modality.

Dog therapy

“Dogs truly can heal,” The Saturday Evening Post reported in its November/December 2011 issue. A patient’s heart rate slows and blood pressure drops with just one look at a therapy dog. The human-canine connection decreases dementia patients’ agitation, and “corrosive hormones generated by stress that damage arteries and play a part in so many diseases and disorders plummet,” the magazine reports.

Crestview resident Janice Marcus has experienced such healing qualities with her collies, Jasmine and Shane, whose companionship played a significant role in her recovery following a life-threatening condition, reporter Brian Hughes learned.

Crestview’s own Dozer the Therapy Dog is a Great Dane who regularly visits assisted living facilities and local organizations and buildings — like the Crestview Public Library — specifically to help people.

And we haven't forgotten about you, Jada, a border collie-golden retriever mix and licensed therapy dog, who will  appear at the library on Feb.  26. 

We don’t have all the answers.

Some things, like the powerful bond between a dog and his human, are worth a special look.

The newspaper would like to spotlight this mystical, life-saving kind of puppy love this Valentine’s Day.

Contact News Bulletin Editor Thomas Boni at 682-6524 or Follow him on Twitter @cnbeditor.