Lessons in life (and where i found them) part 1
Lessons in Life
And Where I Found Them
I grew up as the son of one of the best dog groomers in the area. I had a seemingly endless supply of furry friends to socialize with, which is a handy fact when you consider the not so furry kind were often in short supply. When school was out as a child there was no need for a babysitter as the original Critter Cleaners was in a shop right next to the school I attended. I would walk mere hundreds of feet, and if I didn't have any money in my pockets, pass up the doughnut shop and walk in the back door.
I was greeted daily by an eruption of energy upon my entry! Dozens of new faces, mostly freshly trimmed, and often eager for a petting. After setting down my backpack I would often make my rounds. When I approached, many of the pups would be shaking their tails (or lack thereof) with such intensity that their whole frames shook. It was usually about this time that my mother would chime in with something like "don't mess with that (insert breed here) he's mean." I've always considered myself smart but as I grow in life I realize that there are many kinds of smart, and I'm not all of them. For most of my life, I never had enough brains to be afraid of a dog, probably not until I was about 32. Mom would go back to her work, which demands the utmost of focus, and that's where I learned to speak dog.
I was always fascinated by the ones who seemed uncomfortable with me. My motivation was always to help this dog get over the fear they had of me. I was not going to leave to go play until I had made friends with all the dogs. Especially the big ones.
So the contest began. I would sit in front of the kennel, and I wait, not giving any ground but not pressuring any further. The dog would usually keep barking, which the groomers had been tuning out all day. Eventually the eye contact would break and the dog would lower its head and move to the back of the kennel. I would offer my hand but the unsure dog usually wouldn't investigate. I would turn my back to the cage and lean up against it and wait. After a few minutes, but sometimes longer, I would feel a nose at my back. I’D offer my hand backside first, to keep from getting bit. As they became more relaxed I could put my fingers through the grate and pet. A couple hours later Mom would finish a dog to find me asleep in the kennel with the vicious animal that I had been warned about.
This is an education that most people will never get, yet I took it for granted. I suppose that was because I didn't look at it as an education, but an interaction. I think that is why I had no failures in my attempts. I put myself in the mind of that animal and tried to give it what it needed to be comfortable. I was not afraid, I was just making friends, and it never occurred to me that this was anything out of the ordinary. This was a recurring theme for a large portion of my young life.
As I got older, as happens to most young men, I got interested in other things and my connection with dogs left the forefront of my mind. I believe that was, in part, because it was, to me, just part of life. I would encounter a dog, we were friends. no exceptions. Humans were not like that at all.
This was the beginning of a journey of education that I am excited to share with you. Stay tuned to see how being lost in life helped me learn many lessons that allow me to help people understand how their dogs understand them!