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.