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Empathy

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Said 1CRAZYDOG about yesterday's blog (me counting the ways I love my Henry . . .):
"I think these fur babies just make us better people all 'round."

And yes, I think that's just so true. We have to try to be as good people as our dogs believe we are!

But . . . raising a puppy is not easy. Henry is our fifth puppy we've brought into our home during our marriage. After the death of beloved saint Charlie (also a golden retriever) we had, frankly, forgotten how much work it takes . . . and how much time and patience!

Henry at almost 20 months old is still very much in the process of becoming the good dog he wants to be.

So what does it take to raise a puppy? Empathy. Above all. The understanding that a puppy comes into our lives from a very different culture. We human aliens kidnap our puppies and take them to a very strange place, a place very different from the only culture that, at 8 weeks or so, they've ever known.

And that was the outstanding message in a recent article www.whole-dog-journal.co
m/behavior/kidnapped-from-
planet-dog/


Posted yesterday by a dear Sparkie friend, DSHONEYC: www.sparkpeople.com/mypa
ge_public_journal_individu
al.asp?blog_id=6730374


Who's also raising and training a puppy -- selflessly, raising and training that puppy not to be her own companion but as a support dog for a disabled person.

What kind of culture does a puppy come from?

1. A culture in which it's entirely OK and normal to bite -- everybody bites! And Henry most definitely was a very bitie puppie. For a long period of time. Chewing furniture: the wooden base of an old kitchen table was pretty much destroyed: subsequently replaced. And a bench in our mudroom: repaired and repainted. In fact, Henry STILL bites us, occasionally . . . maybe it would be fairer to say, mouths us, with much less than the full force of his massive jaws. But yes, he will let us know: things aren't evolving entirely as he would wish!! And he could get mouthier!! If the situation doesn't improve, right now!! And we have to let HIM know: uh, no.

2. A culture in which nobody's ever alone. Henry was always with his puppy litter mates -- four sisters -- and his incredibly patient mum, Bliss, right up until he joined us at eight weeks of age. And in our home, because we could not supervise him 24/7, he had to learn to be alone, sometimes. Which wasn't easy for him. Or for us. Especially because he was our first puppy who could not be crated -- having broken his leg in a tragic crate accident three days after he came home.

3. A culture in which nobody wears a leash -- and at first, Henry was not all that keen on his leash OR on going for walks. He tugged a lot! And as he grew stronger than us, we had to experiment with a prong collar on the recommendation of his obedience class teacher . . . until our vet (also a golden-owner) introduced us to the Easy Walk harness. WAY better . . . But Henry STILL quite regularly and for periods of time almost every day needs his leash, inside, to remind him: Mind your manners, Henry!!

4. A culture in which you can pee (and worse) anywhere! Gotta say, Henry was very very quick to be completely house trained . . . Dogs ARE den animals who really don't want to mess where they live. So this was something he'd learned within a few days, both at our home and at our office. All the "accidents" which happened after that were entirely our fault -- failing to observe when he was indicating it was time to take him outside: or failing to respond quickly enough. Puppy bladders are pretty small . . .

And of course, as Henry learned not to bite anything he wanted to chew on, and not to pee anywhere he wanted to, and not to pull on his leash and just generally to mind his manners and not jump up and snatch whatever he wanted whenever he wanted it . . . he's been able to spend more time with us and generally to have the free run of the house pretty much 24/7.

But: that's taken close to 20 months. It's taken a lot of empathy too: requiring ourselves, as a moral duty, to imagine just how strange and foreign our ways are, and how much accommodation we've demanded of Henry, to fit into our lives. We've had to put ourselves into his paws, so to speak . . . that moral duty to afford due weight and respect to the reality of another life, another perspective, another culture. And to make some reciprocal accommodations ourselves. When we're tired, when we're preoccupied, when we've had enough and just don't wanna . . .empathy is still essential.

Even now, as companionable as Henry truly has become, we know from past experience he will probably be well over two -- perhaps closer to three or four years of age, possibly never -- before he's entirely trustworthy.

So: a couple of take-aways?

First of all, for all those who acquired "pandemic" puppies which were perhaps the first puppies they'd ever raised: yeah, it's entirely normal to be frustrated and even angry at times, The bond between human and dog is deep but earned and it doesn't happen instantaneously, by osmosis.. And yes, some breeds of dog (and some dogs, whether pure bred or mixed breed, who've had ACEs . . . adverse childhood experiences) may never evolve into the perfect companions we yearn for. But a puppy must be a commitment for the lifetime of the dog. Barring unusual circumstances, to fail in that commitment is not only unfair to the dog -- it diminishes our own fundamental humanity.

And that's because, second, living with a dog CAN expand our very capacity for love AND for empathy. Each dog is a little bit different. Each dog requires and rewards the development of different components of our own empathy. But but but: those skills are transferrable to all of our interactions as human beings. When, by raising a puppy, we've formed a deep and empathetic relationship with a dog . . . patiently, kindly, flexibly . . . we may discover we've actually become more of the human being our dogs believe us to be. With greater capacity for empathy in all our relationships, including our relationships with other people.

Empathy. Could we all use more of that right now?

Oh yeah.

So maybe that's the deep conspiracy theory, the reason so many people were moved to take on a puppy during this pandemic. .

What we need now is what the world needs now too. More empathy. Sweet empathy!

Thanks, Henry. I'm not as good a person as you think I am . . . but you've sure helped make me a better person!!

Good boy, Henry!! Keep it up!! We'll keep on keeping on . . .together!!









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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • MARTHA324
    Wonderful! As the mom of an almost 3 year old he's taught me not just empathy, but patience. And we love him.
    36 days ago
  • BESSHAILE
    If I can become half the person my dog thinks I am - I would be the best person I know.

    Love a dog.
    38 days ago
  • AKA_TROUBLE
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    39 days ago
  • NASFKAB
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    39 days ago
  • SNOOPYLINKOS
    Puppies are worth the training! Their love in return, is unreplacable.
    39 days ago
  • DESIREE672
    My daughter is nostalgic for our cat, but I remember the early months and the last, when she was hitting a second childhood at nearly twenty. I don’t think I’m going to commit to another twenty years (I’m nearly seventy) but you never know.
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    39 days ago
  • QUARTERMASTER3
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    39 days ago
  • DSHONEYC
    Elkie loves being a dog, she is working hard to train me, too. emoticon
    39 days ago
  • PHEBESS
    Puppies definitely are quite a bit of work (as are human children). But once they learn, they definitely know what is expected!

    39 days ago
  • BJAEGER307
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    39 days ago
  • TERMITEMOM
    What a great blog! I bookmarked it.
    39 days ago
  • DOVESEYES
    Wonderful ... we have a rescue cat ... he was left in an empty house for days after his mum and siblings were taken away... the cleaners found him and took him to the shelter. When DD went there he climbed her leg and said with his eyes "get me out of here!!"

    She called him Phoenix :) now she is gone and he is mine :), even after 8 years he is still skittery and always ready to run, .... a crunched bag, a door knock, phone ringing. DD was at uni so I loved up on him in the day time, teaching him what I could.

    How to knock on DD's closed door to get in her room, that under the table cloth was more fun than on top, especially if Mum moved her hand over it :) etc etc

    Now each of us in the house is his 'favourite ' for different things ... one for pats ... one to watch him eat his cat biccies ... one to feed him... one to put his blankie on the washing machine so he may sleep... one to get his grass .... and aren't we pleased to do it :)

    He sits at our feet and if we don't move to do his bidding he will meow a different one for each requirement :)

    He is loved :)
    39 days ago
  • HOLLYM48
    Our dogs look at us with so much love in their eyes, like we can do no wrong and even if we do, they will forgive and forget and move on! Wonderful little creatures that we could all learn so much from!
    39 days ago
  • MTN_KITTEN
    I LOVE OneKidsMom comment.
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    39 days ago
  • BROOKLYN_BORN
    My only experience with dogs or any pet other than parakeets and goldfish was through those acquired by our children after they left home.

    But I did "dog sit" for several months for my son's dog. "Girl" was a rescue, really rescured!
    Bobby found her out in an ice storm, no collar, just shivering and crying.
    He took her to his student apartment where no pets were allowed. He tried unsuccessfully to find her owner. He did not want to take her to the pound. Since it was his last month of college he figured by the time management would start eviction proceedings because he had a pet, he would be gone.

    He called her "Buffy" (after the vampire slayer) since she was a tough little thing, but she responded best to "come here girl" She loved my son and when we each travelled halfway (MA to VA)to return her to him, she saw him across the parking lot and just erupted with joy - leaping high into the air and pulling the lease with all the power of her little body. She was so loyal.

    She lived for 14 happy years after a rocky start in life.


    40 days ago
  • BKNOCK
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    40 days ago
  • OVERWORKEDJANET
    Thanks goodness DD1's COVID adoption, Winnie, is everything she should be. Loving, well-trained, polite and did I say loving? She fit right in.
    DD2 got Chewy as an 8 week old and he did everything a puppy should do! Now, at 4, he's a gentleman.
    It's so nice to be loved.

    40 days ago
  • LSANDY7
    All our pets can teach us something about ourselves. I think dogs do it best in that they are always under foot. emoticon
    40 days ago
  • MOLLIEMAC
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    40 days ago
  • NANCY-
    Read that from DSHONEYC's blog. It was excellent. And yes we all need empathy.
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    40 days ago
  • _RAMONA
    Brilliant!
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    I don't know much about dog culture, yet many of the points you make about human response can be applied to cat culture. I always have people asking me about how to deal with kittens and when anyone has a 'problem' older cat I try to make the point that if you have a problem, it's usually human created. My dear niece and her husband so badly wanted a pandemic kitten... and they got one... and they subsequently returned it a week later as they realized that they truly were not ready for the sacrifices/energy/level of attention required to raise a good companion. They weren't quite prepared for the level of COMPROMISE and patience it would take. Cats are very trainable, but it does require putting yourself into their paws. Each and every one of my cats has made me a better person, too... and people marvel at what remarkable cats we've always had.
    40 days ago
  • JHADZHIA
    Wow! Spectacular article! Seeing it from the pup's point of view! What a dramatic shift in thinking!
    So very true and realistic. Getting a pup is very much like having a child. in the first while requiring round the clock care. You wouldn't leave your baby alone for hours on end. Absolutely love it! may new pup owners take this to heart!
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    40 days ago
  • NANASUEH
    He's such a good boy!

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    40 days ago
  • no profile photo INCH_BY_INCH
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    40 days ago
  • LYNCHD05
    I love to see our grown children with their pets.I truly think they are better people when they have groen up loving a family pet.

    Love Henry’s new hat!
    40 days ago
  • PENOWOK
    DH and I walk the trail at the park. Part of it is an area where dogs can be unleashed. We appreciate ver much the responsible owners who pick up the excrement, and not all do so. I love watching the owners using ball tossing thing and the dogs loving to run and jump to retrieve those balls that fly through the air and sometimes bounce a few times. It's fun to watch some of them learn and grow. We also have dogs that interact well and others that must be restrained. Yesterday we passed a gentleman who had cleaned up, and as we passed in the opposite direction, he re-leashed his dog to prevent a jump. Smart. Healthy. Loving toward his dog and toward us. I do miss having such a friend, but DH doesn't feel he could handle the loss again. He now even refuses to let offspring bring theirs to our home when they come. So I must be satisfied with a few who come say hello on our walks. Perhaps, when we are free to come and go again, if I don't have grandsons, I'll volunteer at the Humane Society. I'll see what life brings!
    40 days ago
  • ASHLEYRX12
    Sweet face ❤️ very cool thing to train a dog for another- I appreciate your willingness and ability to explain what goes into it 😊
    40 days ago
  • JUNEPA
    Love that line - Be the person your dog thinks you are

    I remember when Frida came home, I thought the same thing, poor little thing, kidnapped and plunged in a completely different environment. She lost her snuggle buddy puppy mates, her mom, her familiar surroundings. And on top of it, she came from a very permissive home, her owners were kind of hippy-ish, they had a small acerage and quite a few dogs and let their dogs go everywhere in and out of the house, on the furniture and were very affectionate to their dogs. Frida didn't even move the first day she came to our place, she slept all day. She was probably thinking, hoping, it would be a night mare and she could wake up and be back where she came from. She was DD#2's first dog, so she got lots of attention and love and gradually she warmed up to us and now it is all so good. Plus she is my best exercise buddy and loves when I take her on walks and hikes. I have never had a dog adore me so much. On days when things are not going well, I love to go outside and walk and I feel so much support and companionship from her. She belongs to DD, who shares her with DH and me.
    40 days ago
  • MEADSBAY
    I’m a nervous wreck about my wonderful DIL (who oozes empathy from every pore of her body) getting a puppy in a few months.
    Pretty sure my son had never let that happen as they had 3 babies in 4 years and live in chaos.
    I don’t think she has ever had a puppy and only remembers her last dog years ago, a mellow mature Lab.
    The kids don’t seem to understand they are not going to be able to leave their legos everywhere, or their socks and shoes, and their books...
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    40 days ago

    Comment edited on: 1/20/2021 11:25:03 AM
  • ONEKIDSMOM
    Amen! Wouldn't it be a wonderful world if we were all the people our dogs think we are?

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    40 days ago
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