A couple weeks ago I met and pet sat my neighbor’s animal family for the first time. Two small dogs, and two indoor-only cats. The two cats and one of the dogs took to me immediately. The little dachshund, not so much! She growled, barked, and yes even bit me. It’s not very often animals don’t like me, this astounded me!
With her nipping (not really biting), I told her I wasn’t there to hurt her and she can take all the time she needs to get used to me. The human dad told me this is normal, and basically you can’t train dachshunds; expect her to poop and pee on the floor as part of this inability to train. He said in order to get her to do her business outdoors you basically have to yell at her. I don’t work that way. I could give command, but not yell.
Being so close, I visited every couple of hours because I was worried about them…I know, I know! I would let the dogs outside and was surprised they didn’t have any toys. Maybe having a playful lab/mix dog 24/7 has trained me! It got to be quite fun to go over there, let them out, and eventually even the dachshund found I had redeeming qualities. I gave her time and space, and she gave me trust.
They would just go outside and lay down and I thought that’s pretty boring for dogs, so I started a little game of “let’s go run and play!” I kept it light and fun, I am quite sure I would have looked pretty funny if the fence wasn’t there.
When the dogs did their business, I praised them, and the little dachshund lit up with that!
I gave her time, space, tried to be as kind and consistent each time whether she growled at me or bit me. In return, she softened, her whole demeanor and body language changed. It was wonderful. That has to be my favorite part of working with both animals and humans, when you make a change for the better.
The next time I went to visit, she came up to me while I was sitting on the lawn and she jumped in my lap!! Wonderful, I’d made a new friend! She is a sweetie pie. It was lovely, that change, you know?
As I go through this painful process of letting go of the home I love dearly, I wonder if people can see my heart. Can they feel my heart like I did that little dog? Can they relate to me with compassion and kindness, rather than judging and criticism? One way adds life and healing, and the other adds death and distance. I realize everyone has their hurt, and their own stuff, but when it comes to ‘helping’ another, so much of what we do doesn’t work.
I wish people could see my heart as easily as animals do. I’ve been told a lot of things on this path, such things as I haven’t prayed enough, or whatever other religious “should” without knowing me or what goes on in my spiritual self. Those who haven’t been on this path cannot encourage from a place of knowing, it is really that simple. Those who have been on this path speak from the heart, not the intellect; they reach out instead of building walls and barriers.
For helping anyone else, animal or human, it’s best to think what they’re going through and find out where their heart is. You may just be surprised to find beyond that ‘ruff around the edges’ type of dog or person is a good, misunderstood heart just waiting to be discovered…and softened.