Saturday, March 13, 2010

Chica, the Dog

Starting out, I have to say I recognize that listening to someone talk about their own dog is not much different from listening to a parent talking about their child, or even showing slides of the family vacation. If you’re not intimately acquainted with the object of affection, or if you weren’t there, you’re probably going to be bored with hearing about it. “My little Amber is the cutest, smartest, most unique child I’ve ever known. She’s only a year old, and she can already count to three.” Never mind that little Amber is actually the only child the parent has ever really known. But, it is almost impossible to separate those sentiments from the larger reality of who little Amber, or in this case, Chica, actually is. So, if you don’t want to hear about my dog this would be a good place to stop reading.

Chica is a one-year-old Doberman. She is more than our family pet, she is an enormous part of our family, and is treated as such, with love, with kindness, with appreciation, and with respect. My wife and I do everything we can to see that her needs are met. Her primary needs, like those of people, are for love, acceptance, trust, some exercise, and a consistency in meeting those needs. Oh yeah, and of course, some snacks and a good meal.

I get mad at her sometimes, and I am elated with her at other times. She is young, and still a puppy, she is finding her way, but Chica is also a mirror. Plain and simple, she mirrors life around her. I don’t think she knows that about herself, but we certainly see it clearly. And in this case, my wife and I are the life that is around her. She is a check and balance system for our own behavior, and for our attitude. At home, when we are excited about something, she is excited with us. When we are calm, she is calm as well. When we are concerned about something, she shares that concern, and even magnifies it. She goes on hyper alert, and pushes vigilance to the max. When we are content, she is generally satisfied; she is at her most docile, her most agreeable, and yes, her most obedient. When we are unhappy, she is a little unruly, undisciplined, and, yes, unsatisfied. We try not to be unhappy, because unhappiness is not good for us, but we try even harder because we know that our unhappiness is not good for her either.

Because we live alone, when other people, or animals, are thrown into the mix, a whole different dynamic is created, one that Chica is not as used to, and that makes for a more awkward, and challenging, environment for her. She does mirror that environment as well, but we have less control over the big picture, and thus, less influence on her demeanor. As she gets older, however, we are finding that she is becoming better suited to dealing with change, and better able to remain more independent of its sway.

Where I am, where my wife is, where we are, that is where Chica wants to be, always. She will ride in the truck with us for hours, just to be with us. She will lay on her bed in the luggage compartment behind the seats, quietly, calmly, waiting for us to return from whatever it is we’re doing. Upon our return to the truck there is only gladness, there is a brightness in her eyes, there is only joy. This is not an anthropomorphic projection of mine, it is the reality of this creature, this companion, this giver of pleasure, and of life.
Chica never asks for much; she only wants to play sometimes, or go for a walk, or be petted or brushed. Sometimes she wants to snuggle her head in a warm lap. Who am I to deny her these pleasures, especially when it gets returned ten-fold.

This dog, I recognize, is a gift from the invisible hand of God. She was given to meet some of the needs in our own lives; some unspoken, and even unknown, needs. She did not just happen into our lives. And even if she appeared to have ‘just happened’ by, it would be very clear by now, that our connection is no coincidence. She is a creature, perhaps not unlike your own pet, who brings with her a certain necessity that we be at our best, that we be aware of her, that we be conscious of her feelings.

If we take Chica’s needs to heart, if we consider her, if we really, truly see her, we will also be seeing the best in, and of, ourselves.

“My dog is the cutest, smartest, most unique animal I’ve ever known. She’s only a year old, and she can already count to three.”
Now, if you have an extra minute, I’d like to show you some slides of my family vacation.