Confessions of an imperfect dog mom: the essence of “dogness”
A few days ago I was out walking with Turnip…I had a very sweet “ah ha” moment when I realized that Turnip was walking like a normal dog and has been for a long time…I think I have taken his progress for granted…relaxed…tail up…sniffing…no fear. He has changed so much, albeit gradually, that when I paused to think about it…the change in him….seems like magic…it makes me smile. It got me thinking about how much both Buster and Turnip have changed since we met them last year.
Bret and I have always had a soft heart for the creatures that have some challenges…maybe we can both relate. Turnip was challenged by pretty much everything…door ways…stairs…men…blowing leaves…noises…when I started walking him I had to lure him with ham while he slithered on his belly a bit further down the driveway each day. We used to have leave the room to get him to go in and out the door for potty breaks. There was a time when he would not let anyone but me near him…now he will take food from the hands of strangers and a select few can pet him.
Buster was a different type of special…he was bred to work…to guard…he just needed to find his rhythm (and some boundaries) for a successful family life. He found them. But in hindsight he has changed dramatically…Buster lived at a kennel when I first started working with him..I was uncomfortable letting him near my own dogs. Now he is a ladies man…all of our fosters fall in love with him and any human that visits is his new best friend. Don’t get me wrong…Buster is not a dog to trifle with…but he figured out where he fits here and he does everything with enthusiasm.
Watching Buster and Turnip change has been rewarding…Bret and I are deeply invested in both of them…we work hard with our dogs that need extra help…these two have taken an extraordinary amount of our time. Our investment in them seems so much larger since we took in the girls this year (Lucy, Luna & Maddie). The girls are so laid back and well adjusted…they were an immediate and effortless fit here. The contrast between the boys and the girls made me think more about investing time in relationships general…do I afford people the same “space and grace” that I am more than happy to give the dogs? Do any of us? Do I work as hard at relationships with difficult humans as I did with Buster and Turnip? I had a wicked determination with Buster…giving up was not an option. What if I had that same determination with people?
I’ve been thinking about this for awhile…my conclusion is that I need to re-frame how I choose to interact with humans. If I could get away with it I would interact with people very little…its not that I don’t “like” people…I’m just an introvert…I prefer to be a lone…I have fun when I am alone…if I don’t get enough time alone than I am not myself. If I have been around a lot of people for an extended amount of time (even though I enjoy it) I will be exhausted. I am comfortable with being an introvert and I make sure to protect the boundaries I need to stay spiritually and emotionally healthy. But its possible I have been using my introversion as an excuse to not extend more grace to people in general. I think about the most basic things I afforded to Buster and Turnip while they figured things out…it was space (to figure things out at their own pace) and grace (remaining consistently caring no matter what kind of shenanigans were going on). I suppose those are the same two things most would say they would afford their children. But do we afford them to adults? Buster and Turnip had tremendous baggage…they were not young puppies to shape and socialize…they were emotionally banged up…as most adult humans are…as I am. If you looked at either of these dogs on the outside…they looked like handsome, healthy adult dogs…not so on the inside….as is the case with most adults…myself included. What would happen if I worked harder at seeing Buster and Turnip in everyone?
There is a dog person saying, you’ve heard it….”the more people I get to know the more I like dogs”…its kind of a funny saying…and often it can be true. But it also flies in the face of the essence of “dogness”…the very glory of a dog is its unconditional love and tolerance for humans. If there is no human for them to love…than there is no “dogness”. The intrinsic nature of a dog is rooted in its relationship to us. We rob dogs of their wonder if we don’t afford humans the same space, grace and effort that the dog’s give us. Perhaps the main reason dogs are here for us to reflect them…to reflect their “dogness” in to our own relationships…I want more “dogness” in my own essence…