My dog, Chaplin, is my own dear, sweet pooch and, as much as I resisted getting a dog, I don’t regret finally making this decision. Not one bit. He, like Bairn, also started off with no fears in the world. Everything was exciting and wonderful. Every person. Every dog. Especially every dog. If you have one, you know that look dogs get when they spot each other—they’re out for their morning walk and suddenly a fellow-species member trots by and the world stops for both of them, like they’re the only two beings alive on this earth. You half-expect some sappy love-song strains to start up, say “Lady in Red”, as they strain to nuzzle and sniff each other. I always used to say, Chaplin is a people-dog, but he’s even more of a dog-dog.
But that all changed one day when I was walking Chaplin and we passed a large white (leashed) dog who, apropos of nothing, suddenly clamped its jaw around Chaplin’s neck. The master reacted in seconds and all finished okay. But Chaplin was a changed pooch. He was, well, gobsmacked seems the best word. It was like he’d just discovered his best friend was cheating on him.
Now he never looks at dogs the same way, with that innocent joy and heart-bursting love. No, now he growls or retreats shaking behind my legs, or sometimes he even lunges. For what purpose, I don’t know, I hardly see him as the jaws-around-a-neck type. And if the dog is large and white, all the more difficult to soothe him down.
Anyway, all this to say that it makes me wonder if we all aren’t a little doggy in our lives. We too start off sweet and innocent. But if one white dog clamps its steely jaw around our neck, life can change forever after. Yes, it teaches us a valuable lesson that some dogs bite, but it often just ruins dogs for us completely. Suddenly, for no better reason than something bad happened to us one day in the past, we now tend to cower or retreat or lunge out in angry self-defense at even the whiff of large-white-dog-breath.
But should one mean-spirited (or misguided) dog affect everything we try to do from now on? If one person or event or challenge or shock sideswipes us, should we lie in wait every day after for the same thing to happen again? Or can we somehow start fresh, reprogram our brains, and learn to not assume every dog will bite even if we know some certainly will? And in so doing, will we become more accepting, more courageous, and much more present in the moment?
All I know is that for me most, if not all, of my fears and anxieties grip me because of the sheer force of this habit. Ironically, there’s nothing more mundane than a habit, especially a bad one. And habit is a very difficult habit to break. Just ask Chaplin.
Deb: I guess that’s why when I am in a room full of people that love me, I will navigate to the one who doesn’t. Cause I have to sell them on me. Have to make them get the Deb.
I relate to Chaplin on this, but because my brain is bigger (YES, I AM SMARTER THAN THE DOG!), I have found my way around this one. I have really started to succeed in not letting the big dog bully me. I have found more and more that I am making small steps in that direction. My issue is the pendulum. I find myself struggling with the two extremes. I go from “Carpet Girl”––walk all over me––to FUCKYOUYAMEANSPIRITEDBULLYBETTYTHINKYOURPOODOESNTSTINK!
This is my issue. I need to find the middle ground and I am working on it. I can tell you this––and I stand by it 100%––if someone is not worthy of my love and friendship, I move on with no bitterness and no regret. My world and the world at large are too full of sweet pups to choose a bully. I am officially over them.
Chaplin, are you listening? Good dog. Smart Dog.