Let’s face it, we are nuts about dogs. Not the actual animals, mind you, but the ones we have a picture of in our heads. The ones that behave just exactly the way we want them to. The actual animals do things that we think are aggravating, wrong, bad, impolite, and just plain yucky. And when they do, we will stop them immediately; we will resist and punish – automatically and unconsciously. Some of us appear to be trying to yank the dog right out of the dog.
Jack and I encountered a little Cockapoo on the other end of a man’s leash yesterday. As soon as he saw us approaching, he began to pull on the dog. In a nanosecond, he went from being about ten feet away from the man to being right at his feet. I asked if the dog was vicious and he said that he was just the opposite – the nicest dog. I asked why he was jerking on the dog’s neck that way. He said he didn’t know. The two dogs had an encounter, circling around and around to get to the parts that would give them some real information about each other. The little Cockapoo’s nose found Jack’s “down-under” region. The man yanked again. He shouted “Stop that.” I said “They are just trying to get to know each other in a way that’s natural for dogs.” He said he knew. So I asked why he felt he had to stop it. He said he didn’t know; it was just something he did.
The dog’s reality is a mirror of our withdrawal from the dynamic, vibrant, ever-changing natural world that once kept us alert and rooted us in the present moment. Today, we are indoors, safe and comfortable. We are rational and intellectual. And into this conceptual, predictable world, we have brought the dog. We have morphed the bodies of natural animals into shapes that would never survive the hunting and scavenging lifestyle from which they were very recently removed. We have come to conceive of them as little humans. We have diminished their social outlets to a few encounters with others of their kind while tethered and controlled in sterile green spaces. And even then, we try to deny them contact, closeness, a sniff or lick that connects them to their ancient heritage and tells them all.
Becoming fully present when I have communion with the dog in my life is an exciting possibility. I strive for it, after all, he gives that to me. Don’t we owe it to the one we’re nuts about to be aware of what we are doing to them and why?