In my recent months of volunteer dog-walking for the local SPCA, I’ve walked many of what I call “poodle puff” dogs. They’re not actually poodles, but they’re little, they’re soft and curly, and the uncontainable love inside them makes them seem to bounce and levitate along like buoyant little clouds.
They are your childhood stuffed animals come to life with their tiny button noses and mass of huggable fluff. One such dog, Patches, kept stopping in the middle of the walk for hugs, and when I’d crouch to pet her she would literally wrap her paws around my knee and nestle her head into it. Just try not to melt when a dog gives you such unabashed affection! You can imagine how often her bids for cuddles are successful — who could resist? My little poodle puffs model how the more love you exude, the more love will come back to you. If you want love in your life, shower others with love.
Though most of the dogs are brimming with love, like humans, they have their bad days too. A couple of months ago, I had some misadventures with a one-eyed shitzu named Rex. Rex’s surgery to remove his blind eye had been pretty recent. As a result he was still wearing (enduring?) a cone on his head. This made him surly. And I would be too, if I were him.
All dogs hate cones, but when your head is only eight inches from the ground, insult is added to injury, as you are left with a scant inch or two of head mobility. Rex’s cone kept getting caught on things, jarring him backward, and pretty soon he’d had enough of his plastic nemesis. He started thrashing his head around and snarling and trying to use my leg as leverage to pop the cone off his head (I only recognize in hindsight that this is what he was doing because he was in fact successful…).
Now, the problem is that the cone had a built-in collar, so he freed himself completely. The dog was loose, and I was now left with just a leash and a cone dangling from it. Luckily, his success was as much of a surprise to him as it was to me, so he stood there in a stupor and didn’t run. This still provided a few moments of panic, as I had to wrangle Rex with one arm and get the cone back on his head with the other — all the while being careful not to hurt his tender eye area.
Needless to say, he was not happy about the reunion and growled and snapped at the leash in protest all the way back to the shelter. I’m sure a couple weeks of healing later — and sans cone — Rex is an entirely different fellow. I think the lesson from the poor little guy is that those who snarl at you do so from a place of their own pain. It’s not about you, so there is no need to snarl back.
Admittedly, I am hesitant to walk the larger dogs. I love to pet and cuddle them, but being only 5’1 myself, the big dogs are a little too close to my size. However, experience has taught me that this is faulty logic as strength is not a correlative of size.
One day when I came in, there were three dogs left to be walked. One was a huge, gorgeous cross of some kind named Lily, whose head reached higher than my hip, and the other two were black lab cross “puppies,” Banjo and Fiona. I figured two puppies around 40 lbs each, no problem! That’s less weight over all than one big gal who looked to be about upwards of 90 lbs.
Well, mass doesn’t account for energy and will. Those two pups had me red-faced and sweating with leash burns on my hands in no time! Picture dog sledding, but subtract the sled, and that was my walk with these two. The puppies taught me that when we combine forces, the sum is infinitely greater than the parts. (I ended up walking Lily the next week, and she turned out to be the most placid creature I’ve ever met. She plodded along, never so much as tugging at the leash, so I should have been assessing energy rather than pounds!)
This leads me to my last point: experiences are the alchemy of the energies involved. Neither humans nor dogs have fixed identities. Dogs behave differently with different walkers, and vice versa. None of us are static creatures, so the more room you leave in your heart and your mind to accept whoever the other is in the moment, the more authentically you can show up as yourself.
“Can we go for a walk?” ktylerconk @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.
“Hello” SusanG2 @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.