Phoebe is a really nice dog, but she is neurotic. Her one really horrible habit is freaking out when she is wrapped in her blanket and down for the count...then she becomes a red whirling shark attack. Just let someone, human or animal inadvertantly even think to come close to her space and out flies her snapping serpentine face like a morey eel from it's cave. She did it to Jack tonight which upset both Jack and me. I picked up our little frightened muffin and sat with her on the couch right next to Phebes. I told Phoebe I loved Jack and she must never frighten her. I held Jack and comforted her and told her that Phoebe was sorry. Did Phoebe know what I was saying?...no...did she get that Jack is special and I was upset?...yes. Is Jack currently laying on the couch, right next to Phoebe wrapped up in her blanket?...yes again. And why is it ok now? Because dogs read our body language, and when we really feel something profoundly and completely, our bodies do not lie. Phobe remembers that I love her, but she is learning from watching me that I love others too. And Phoebe, like all dogs who want to be loved, wants the person that they want to love them, to be happy. A happy person who you love is very important to them. It is more important than having the whole couch and the whole blanket to yourself. Humans mostly do not send clear signals to dogs that they can understand and trust. We get all messed up in our heads with shoulds, shouldn'ts, I am not sures and I cannot deal with this anymore's. Dogs can't read our indecision, they can't read us at all when we are waffling and emotionally flailing around. But when they have a strong bond with a human, they can read our truths very well. We selectively bred them for thousands of years to be loyal to us. To protect us and to serve us and to love us above all else. We bred them to place their human's needs above thier own, and every single dog who has a strong bond with a human will do whatever they can to make their human happy. Phoebe keeps trying but she hasn't found that yet.
We underestimate a dog's ability to understand and reason. They reason quite well from two perspectives. opportunistic self centeredness and pleasing the person that they love. When Phoebe cares enough about a human, she is a very good dog, but when she cares too much about herself because she holds herself back, she runs into trouble. Teaching Phoebe is not about teaching her right from wrong, it is about teaching her that giving her heart to another is a safe and wonderful thing to do, and Phoebe wants that human bond. She is sometimes angry and frustrated because we keep breaking the promise with her. She does not understand this, because it is not something that she is ever capable of doing herself. She is ever hopeful, that one day, she will find that human who will place as much value in this bond as she does. Right now, Jack is sleeping on the couch with her because she is hoping that this elusive human bond, might be with me.
Having said all that, some dogs will never have that bond...like Andy. Andy lost his chance thru a backyard puppy mill which never allowed him to formulate a bond pr to ever understand the human-dog relationship. He knows it is missing, he sees it every day with the other dogs and me and he tries in his cautious and distrustful way to have it too. But his fear will always over-ride that need. It takes nothing to throw Andy back into confused unhappiness...Cole's irritation with him last evening, and his fear today when he realized he was out with the dogs for a run with Mo, but I was not there. It upset his balance in his little world, and tonight he was back under the couch and refused to run with us again. He has had set backs before, and he will find his safe place inside himself again. But always, because that human-dog bond is forever fractured, it will occasionally slip for him and plunge him back into fear. All we can ever do for Andy, is to ensure that no matter what space he is in on any given day, that he knows, he is absolutley fine and good and loved whether he is running in the field and playfully popping me with his feet, or hiding under the couch and refusing to come out.
Maybe someday both Andy and Phoebe will really know and trust in the human bond, maybe someday they will both believe that it is real and it is forever, no matter what. But for now, they are both broken, because humans did not understand the depth of need inside a dog's heart. There are alot of dogs in the world who are broken, and each and every one one of them broke because a human was careless or thoughtless or selfish or uncaring. The fault is never inside the heart of a dog, it is inside the heart of mankind.
I don't know if Andy will ever get there, and I do hope that Phoebe does for sure...my bonding with Phoebe is grounded in touch, she craves it. And my bonding with Andy is in not touching, because it frightens him. Two different dogs, two broken parts, yet similar because they both need something special from a human to be free.