How my dog makes me a better human
- She forces me to interact with other humans. If I had my way, I probably wouldn’t talk to anyone new ever – especially complete strangers on the street. My usual defense mechanism is a pair of headphones and my best scowl. But it turns out an adorable ball of fluff who loves people, other dogs, pine cones, grass, and basically everything else she comes in contact with is the anti-defense mechanism. She is a magnet for the young, old, and homeless alike – everyone wants to talk to you. Mostly so they can pet her, but still. It also turns out that I love talking about my dog. So within a few months, I went from not knowing anyone in my neighbourhood to being part of a little doggie-owning community. I still may not know my neigbour’s names, but I know their dog’s names, their walk schedules, and the colour of their favourite dog walking coat.
- She forces me to interact with humans of all kinds. Somehow it is just easier to talk to people in the company and context of dogs. They unify and simplify things. For example, I will generally go to great lengths to avoid children. I don’t understand them and I don’t know how to interact with them. Their blatant honesty kind of scares me. But with Cassie with me, I actually don’t have the instant urge to run screaming when a child approaches me. Yesterday I quite happily hung out with a little girl who decided she wanted to throw Cassie’s toy for her for a while. And a few weeks ago I actually played fetch with a pre-teen boy and a group of dogs. No, I don’t mean that we took turns throwing the ball for the dogs – I mean I played fetch with the boy. The dogs always beat him to the ball but he was the one with the follow-through to actually bring it back. Yes, having a kid drop the ball in my hand and expectantly look at me to throw it again was strange, but hey, like he said, it is great exercise.
- She forces me to go outside for a walk when the sun is shining and when it is pissing rain. She forces me to go outside when I am bouncing with energy and when I am deep in the depths of a migraine. She forces me to go outside when I am raging mad and when I am giddy with Friday-night wine. She simply forces me to go outside. Every. Single. Day. It is fantastic.
- She’s giving me a glimpse of what it looks like to be a social butterfly. At the park, she’s the dog who runs from one dog to the next – greeting all the owners in turn as well, sometimes making one of them her new best friend – and inviting everyone she meets to play. She runs, she chases, she teases, until she finds someone who will run with her. She knows to take turns, to wrestle and be wrestled, to chase and be chased. The only thing giving away the fact that she didn’t in fact go to pre-school is her favourite game of stealing toys at the park and teasing other dogs with them. She’s way too fast for any of us – including the other dogs usually – to catch her. It’s a bit of a problem, but rather adorable as far as problems go.
- She’s teaching me to relinquish control and relax a little more. I can teach her well and take precautions, but at the end of the day, I can’t control her. When I let that leash click off at the park and tell her, “go play,” I just have to trust her. When I leave her with my in-laws for nearly three weeks – knowing full well that she will end up exploring their entire neighbourhood on her own* – I just have to trust that it’s all going to be ok without my anxious eyes there. And of course it was. I am slowly learning I don’t have to orchestrate everything; things working out on their own is the norm, not the exception.
Happy 1st Birthday Cassie! You make our lives richer and better in so many ways every day.
*The first night she wandered off and they eventually found her inside a neighbour’s house eating their dog’s food. She does like to eat. Sigh.