Archive for July 22nd, 2009

I’m sitting this week for a sweet little dog named Joey.  Only he was not at first very sweet in my direction.

Little Joey the American Eskimo didn’t think he liked me when i first came to visit his house.  His mom said, “He wants to reject you as an intruder, but – look – his tail is wagging, even as he is barking at you.”  Part of him thought i might be an enemy, while another part of him really did want to trust and like me – wanted me to be a good part of his world, rather than a threat.  But – as his mom was giving me the tour of the house and instructions for the care of Joey, three cats and some outdoor plants – Joey kept going back and forth between warming up to me and then going back into alarm-barking mode.

The second time i came, the morning after his person had left town for a week, he barked as i came in and for maybe a minute after i got there, then settled down and enjoyed my presence.  When i came back that evening, he barked as i was working the key in the lock, then quickly adopted me.  Since then he gets happy from the sound of my voice as i come up the walk, calling to him.  He follows me around the house like a puppy: if i use the bathroom, he patiently waits just outside the door – or follows me in, rude little thing.  Outside, it takes the merest call to him as i walk him on his leash – more a suggestion than a command – for him to come back in my direction.

What, for a dog, is the process of deciding that a new person is friend rather than foe?  Part of him wanted to like  me from the start, even as another part felt threatened.  How do they let go of their exclusion of the other, their instinctive need to sound the alert against an intruder – to then include me, to decide that they want me to belong.  How did he decide that he liked me?  Sure, i was giving him some good things, but it feels like its gotta be something more than that.  His little doggie brain decided that i was good, not bad.  How?

How do we make that shift with regards to other people?  Why is it sometimes so hard?

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