Monday, November 9, 2009

To All The Dogs I Have Ever Known

I am so, so sorry.

I didn't know how to act around you.

I didn't know how to trust you because I didn't understand you.

I withheld my affection because I thought it would change your behavior.

Instead, you tried harder and didn't know how because I didn't show you.

All you want to do is make me happy. And I wouldn't let you.

Through a conversation with Donald, and a dog-loving friend, and from reading about how to handle toddlers and tantrums on Zen Family Habits, I realized that my conditional love for the family dog is a detrimental situation.

Donald wants a dog; he's a dog-person. We already have two cats; I'm a cat-person. In a conversation last night about my relationship with the family dog, though, it seemed as though I am not only not a dog-person, but that I might even be anti-dog. As in, I might not want a dog at all.

This realization crushed me. I felt like I had failed Donald, that I was standing in the way of his happiness by preventing us from getting a dog. I didn't want that to be the case. I went to bed disappointed.

I woke up this morning feeling disgruntled. I wanted to impose my will on the dog, to make her well-behaved so I could show her affection. Needless to say, it didn't work.

And then I read about the toddlers, and how "your child is a little person having trouble expressing themselves right now". And I realized.... dogs are like perpetual toddlers. They won't be able to express themselves any better than they do now. They depend on me to show them what to do, to show them how to make me happy.

While I do not fear my ability to show a toddler love, even when they are throwing a tantrum, I need to understand that discipline for a dog does not need to come with disapproval. That, in fact, discipline from the perspective of affection and teaching will probably go much further and be much more enjoyable for all involved.

I was afraid to show affection for the dog because I thought it would undermine my authority over her, my role as pack leader. I thought showing love would make me weak.

Have I not been listening?

Today, I am going to change my behavior. I don't have to like it when she licks me or barks. I do have to let her be a dog. I owe it to Donald (and to myself and to the dog) to try. If I truly do not want a dog, it will become clear and I will accept it.

I need to open the door to possibility first. I need to open my heart and let go of the fear.


  1. Hi Daphne! Have you ever watched Cesar Milan on The Dogwhisperer? He's on Nat. Geo. channel. I think he really shows people what being a pack leader is all about. And he always emphasizes getting the RIGHT dog to match your energy level. I really think that is half the battle.

    On the light but serious side - Sweetie, I've had kids and I've had lots of dog. Let me tell ya - the dogs are easier! :)

  2. suZen - I love Cesar Milan! He has taught me a lot about how to be around dogs, theoretically. The important step for me now is to put it into practice. And I agree that energy level matters a lot.

    I never meant to imply that dogs are like kids or vice versa. I just wanted to share my thought pattern as I address this problem. I make no assumptions about what it's like to have kids since we don't have any yet. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Oh Daphne, that was tremendous listening to yourself coming from honesty and respect.
    And it relates to everything in life, partners, children and dogs.
    I am sure you will find what your heart will tell you to do about getting a dog.
    Whatever and whoever is in your life will thrive under the attention you are giving them.
    It is beautiful to observe, love Wilma

  4. Wilma - I'm so glad this impacted you in such a positive way. As I look back at my progress over the few months I've been blogging, I am proud of the improvements I have made. Your blog and your words have helped me along the way, so thank you!

  5. Daphne, you think about things.
    You question and take time to evaluate the impact of having new relationships in your life. That is so fantastic.
    So many people rush into relationships without thinking about the reason, the time, the energy and whether it truly works for them.
    Your willingness to go there and take stock really does serve your heart and others.
    Go girl. Hugs to you.

  6. Ann-Marie - I do think about things, sometimes too much, perhaps! It often ends up being a conversation between my heart and my head. So far, it seems that they play well together, helping me make good, informed decisions that speak to my heart's desires. Thank you so much for your encouragement and support.


I welcome and appreciate your comments!