January 28, 2011

Relationships

This week relationships have been on my mind. Being a dog dog walker, I have lots of contacts with lots of people and their dogs. And I’ll admit it — some of them I like, some of them I don’t. It’s a mystery to Gretchen and I suppose, if I’m completely honest, it’s kind of a mystery to me. But even with the dogs I know well, my relationship with them is different from one dog to the next. It’s as if certain dogs bring out certain parts of my personality and this week, I’ve been doing my best to try and figure out what that all means.

Clearly, I have a different relationship with girls than I do with boys. Monty is my oldest friend and since my puppy-hood, he’s always been like a big brother to me. He teases me and cajoles me, but he always has my back if ever I need him. He’s taught me all sorts of stuff throughout the years like how to play fetch, how to splash in the lake, and how to leap up and box. I trust Monty completely and I know if I ever have a question that needs an answer or advice on how to be the best dog I can be, I can go to Monty and he’ll provide me with a thoughtful and insightful answer. Around Monty I can be goofy or calm, spirited or sleepy — no matter how I feel, I know he loves me.

On the other hand, Rosie is one of my newest friends (not the newest, but close) and I am a very different dog around her. For instance, with Monty I often slam into him inviting him to play and most of the time, he takes me up on the offer (though he’s getting older, as am I and we don’t do this as much). I don’t do this with Rosie. Well, not yet anyway. Rosie, who was rather nervous when we first started walking together, needs me to be strong and sure of myself. She needs me to be calm and in control and so, to make her feel more relaxed, I put on my most adult self and walk through the world confidently composed.

It helps Rosie and I like helping Rosie so maybe that’s the part of me that Rosie calls forth — the helpful part — whereas Monty calls forth my puppy part. I guess with Monty, I’ll always be the kid brother.

Ironically, Rosie LOVES Monty and Monty think she’s pretty sweet — well that she smells sweet. Of course, this makes Rosie pretty shy still don’t let the turned head fool you — Rosie thinks Monty is pretty sweet himself.

Woobie is a friend I’ve had for awhile now and from the moment I met her, I really liked her. In fact, I had a crush on her for a long time, but now that we’re really good friends, I’ve let those feelings mellow out a bit.

And Woobie helped me see that sometimes how I am with other dogs has more to do with the other dog than with me. For instance, Woobie is a really calm and mellow dog. She loves to go on walks, she loves to hang out, and she loves to visit us, but mostly she doesn’t go crazy in the world.

When we walk, she just goes about her business and pays very little attention to me. She doesn’t try to engage me in a game of chase nor does she try to steal my toys or annoy me in any way. When we’re together, I find myself relaxing more and it’s even though we don’t interact much, we appreciate each other’s presence.

It’s nice. It’s sweet. It feels good.

On the other hand, Paige is my newest friend, and I am a much different dog around her than I am around any of my other friends. Generally, if any of my friends tries to get me to play with them, I’ll play. With Paige, we haven’t quite figured out how to play together. We’re learning, though. Like last weekend, we went to the mountains together and ran and romp and dug in the snow with great glee.

Still, when Paige play bowed in front of me, I didn’t know how to react. I turned my head and just waited for her excitable moment to be over. This is unusual for me and I asked Gretchen why she thought I was so shy around Paige. I was embarrassed by her answer…

“You’re smitten,” she said. When I looked at her quizzically, she expanded further on her original answer: “You want Paige to see you as the older, cooler dog. You play kind of hard to get so that she keeps pursuing you because you know how much Paige likes to pursue things. When she turns her attention to you, you act all aloof and that makes Paige want you more. You like that so if you limit your engagement with her, she wants it more. It’s classic smitten behavior.”

I protested: “But sometimes I ask her to play and she doesn’t. What’s that about?”

“Well,” Gretchen explained, “Sometimes you play rather loudly and Paige isn’t sure how to react. Plus, she’s used to you sort of ignoring her. She’s not used to your rowdy self. But don’t worry, buddy, the more she gets to know the complete you, the more you two will figure it out.”

I suppose Gretchen’s right — Paige is a beautiful purebred girl and I am merely a curly mix of poodle and lab and sometimes I don’t feel as if I’m in her league. I do hope, though, that we work it out because hanging with Paige is always an adventure.

Ann thinks so too!

Finally, there’s Tyson.

I don’t walk with Tyson that often, but he is, perhaps, the male version of Paige — a beautiful purebred. The differences are that Tyson is older (older than me, while Paige is younger) and Tyson is nervous (while Paige is very confident) so while Paige and I are trying to figure out how to be together, Tyson and I are just getting to know each other. Of course, Tyson and I haven’t had a chance to play together, but hopefully one day soon, we’ll visit him at the dog park and have a chance to really let loose.

As for the boy-girl thing, it’s true — I really like girl dogs. Gretchen says it’s because they balance out my wild boy energy, but I think it’s just because girls are cute and they make me do silly things. Boys, on the other hand, are all about rough-housing. If I want to slam into someone, it will most likely be a boy dog though not always. If I want to impress someone, I’ll generally choose a girl. I don’t know why that is, but I guess it’s a complicated combination of personalities, breeds, ages, and gender all mixed together so that each relationship I have with another dog is unique and special…just the way I like it!

Until next week,

Rubin

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