Getting My Hash Settled...By A Dog

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I’ve always loved dogs. Since I was born I’ve lived with dogs and I have always believed I have a special connection with them. 

When I was 11 my dad and I took a trip to visit his best friend in rural Oregon. He had a dog, a good boy who was sweet, friendly and calm. 

This dog took a special liking to me. We had one of those unspoken, instantly bonded friendships. 

One day we looked at each other and our souls connected. I could actually feel our bond growing in real time. I was feeling so much tenderness and love for him, I thought he must've felt it.

Then he bit me. 

Right on the nose. Not a hard bite, just a nip. It was the kind of nip a mother dog will give to her puppies for minor infractions.

I was totally confused and heartbroken. I was so embarrassed I never told anyone what happened. 

I was making a mistake that many of us make. I don’t know how, when or why it happened but we’ve stopped seeing our dogs for what they are: Dogs. Not replacements for human connection. Not babies. Not emotional dumping grounds. Not justifications for our judgmental notions of each other. Not helpless creatures. And not our excuse to escape the hard parts of our lives.

They are dogs. Living, breathing, individual creatures worthy of the respect of being seen for who they are.

Back then it was easier for me to connect with an animal than with the people in my life. That’s not a healthy way to live and it kept me from seeing the reality that was right in front of me. The dogs couldn’t speak so I interpreted them to fit my own needs; not listening to what they were actually communicating.

I thought I had a deep connection to them then, what I didn’t know was how much deeper and richer my connection with dogs would be once I saw them for who they are.

That’s been true for every person and animal in my life. The connection we get to experience with others when we really see them is breathtaking. It is harder, but amazing things happen when you stop seeing others as what you want them to be and instead see them for who they actually are.

We need to be seen for who we are, and our dogs need us to see them for who they are. As the thinking, feeling animals they are. 

If we run up to each dog and touch them without attempting to read the signals they are sending out, or get them excited and then walk away unaware of the state we just left them in - that’s not loving dogs. That’s loving what they represent to us but not seeing them as the individuals they are. That would be like running up to each child you see and hugging them, then calling that proof that you love kids. 

It's unfair for the dog and it gets in the way of us developing a deep bond with them. The message that dog who bit me on the nose was trying to tell me was, "give me the respect of seeing me for me, then we can truly be friends."

Seeing them is loving them. If we can do that we will be rewarded with deepened bonds and happier dogs.

*{Informal phrase}
Definition of settle someone's hash: Deal with someone in a forceful and decisive manner

Rochelle MiglioreComment