antisocial

Izzy and the Holiday Shindig

Every year, I invite my faculty and staff to my house for an annual holiday party.  People tend to come in “shifts” — ten or twenty at a time, over a three-hour span.  During the past couple of years, I’ve had one of my friends “babysit” Izzy or I’ve left him in the back yard.  This year, I decided to give him the ultimate test and let him stay for the whole party.  This is a big deal considering he’s gone from being the most antisocial dog I’ve ever had to a dog that now likes to say “hey” to his neighborhood friends but is still nervous about me having anyone over for dinner.  I have to admit I was nervous.

I gave him a bath that morning.  He’s had an issue with dry skin recently, so I used that as an excuse, but the truth is that I wanted him to look and smell nice when everyone came.  My next door neighbor, Deb, told me that afternoon when I took him for a walk, “I’m surprised you don’t have a bow for him to wear for Christmas.”

Rummaging through  my Christmas paper and ribbons, I found the perfect one for him to wear and put it around his neck.  Black and white polka dots with silver trim.  He pranced around the house as if he knew he was too cute for words.

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Throughout the day, he monitored my cooking, aroused by the smells that I know reminded him of pizza.  That’s the one meal that he and I “share.”  Whenever I cook a pizza and eat it while watching TV, he shares the crust with me, the only human food I let him have.  This year’s food theme for my party was Italian, so the smell of two different kinds of lasagna, meatballs, and pizza dip must have reminded him of pizza.  He pranced around the kitchen as if excited about the possibilities.

When the first two visitors arrived, he did his usual barking, but, thankfully, they had dogs of their own and were perfectly calm when he “greeted them.”  I warned him to be quiet, and he knew what was expected of him.  Wiggling, however, was not something he could stop.

The next couple of visitors oohed and aahed over him, then my neighbor (Deb) came over, and I could leave her in the living room with him while I prepared the food.  Perfect.

People came and went.  Izzy greeted everyone and popped around from person to person, seeming to enjoy the attention.  By the time we were more than an hour into the party, he had taken up a spot on the living room rug, just watching the conversations and occasionally doing some harmless begging.

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At the end of the night, the two of us sat on the couch, and I told him how proud I was of him.  I think he actually understood because his fan-of-a-tail wagged.  Love this little guy!

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A Dog’s Story: What Could They Tell Us?

I’ve been thinking a lot about narrative therapy and how it helps people to tell their stories.  It helps to heal and to move on and to let go of the past.  What if dogs could do that?  Would it help a dog who was antisocial to be able to tell someone exactly why they didn’t trust humans or other animals?  

Izzy’s story could probably be a country song.  “My ma left us, broke and alone.  My brother went blind and I had no bone.  Awwwww, woe is me.”  Other dogs would do a rock and roll love song or an aria howled in the highest notes.  Some would simply speak their story in rambling, incoherent sentences while others would be Virginia Woolf-ish and let their story fly via stream-of-consciousness.  But I don’t think the little ones would moan about being the smallest in the pack and the overweight dogs would not express their frustration about losing weight.  A dog’s story would be simple.  Direct.  To the point.

Would a Pitbull trained for the ring discuss his post-traumatic stress?  How about a Lab trained for sniffing out bombs?  Would she cry about the stress of the job and the horrible things she’s seen?  Would a Cockapoo feel left out because he can’t identify with just one family?  And how about a Poodle?  Would she write about how no one is as beautiful as she is?

Stories are important, but the thing about dogs is that their story doesn’t last longer than this moment.  No rear view mirrors for dogs.  Now.  The moment.  Dogs are true Buddhists.  Dogs are cool.  

Here’s Izzy being cool.

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