When you’re a dog, there are so many wonders in life–so many unanswered questions.
One night, you go to bed, and the next day you get up and head outside for your morning whiz, and the ground is blanketed white… and cold!
Although even animals as domesticated as dogs still have an internal sense of time and seasons (if you’ve never noticed your dogs asking for dinner an hour earlier or later when it’s close to time change, start paying attention in a few weeks), they don’t have an innate understanding that winter means it might snow–and often you can see the genuine surprise on their faces when you open the door on that first snowy day.
Dogs do learn, though, so when there’s still snow on the ground the next day, they aren’t as surprised.
There are some things, though, that simply can’t be explained to a dog. A few days ago, we got new roofing put on our house. It was a two-day affair.
Due to blind luck, I happened to be home on Friday, when the crew started the job. Often, I’m working on Fridays, and because my partner works Fridays also. That would have meant that our doggos would have been alone, which would have been a stressful ordeal for them.
If you’ve lived through getting new roofing installed, you know that it is not a quiet event. First of all, there are about 20 people on the crew. Ok, five. But five more bodies around than we are used to having. For our jittery little terrier mix rescue, Ripley, it might as well have been 20 of the most imposing guys you could imagine.
Ripley’s bark trigger is so quick that one of our Littles recently said, “He needs a name that rhymes with ‘Barker,’ because he barks so much.” Ripley’s full name is now Master Ripley Parker Barkerson (much fancier when produced with a British accent: “Mahstuh Ripley Pahkuh Bahkuhsuhn”).
And then there’s the most recent addition to our pack, my mom’s geriatric Doberman. Who, at nearly ten, is the sweetest of sweetses. He is also the scardiest of the scaredies.
And then there’s my main guy–Beans. He is the mellow one of the bunch. But with all of the banging and clanging on the roof (a packet of shingles weighs 80#, so it makes quite a noise when it lands, oh, right above your head), even he was a bit out of sorts.
After some time, it became clear that these people and their loudness were going to be hanging around for a while. So, dogs did what dogs do in times of trouble: they packed up. Regardless of the fact that they are different breeds, they are part of the same pack, and being close gives them a feeling of security.
There were no words I could use to make what was happening make sense to my dogs. Nothing I could say to give them specific emotional relief in this situation, only generally soothing phrases, delivered in dulcet tones.
There are so many times as humans that we are in seemingly incomprehensible situations. We don’t know exactly what is happening—or maybe we do, but we don’t know how long it’s going to last, or there’s some other unknown variable, and we are ill at ease.
Why don’t we behave more like dogs? Why don’t we cling to each other in times of insecurity? Why don’t we “pack up”? Sometimes we do, on a limited basis. But more often than not, these moments lead to a fracturing into or among sub-groups instead of a coming together.
My friend Lisa Weiss wrote about the reasons she thinks people separate themselves rather than coming together recently in her post, “Spice of Life.”
Now, it’s not lost on me that comparing dogs to humans is a flimsy metaphor, at best. Or is it? When it comes down to the most important things in life, when it comes to things that are incomprehensible to us on a gut level, we need to figure out how to put aside our inconsequential differences and pack-up. If we open our eyes, we will see that there is greater comfort in our sameness than there is reason to fear our differences.
I welcome your thoughtful questions and comments.
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