We think that we train dogs…but can they also train us? We assume that because we are human and dogs are…just dogs, that we know more. We may know more stuff, but do we really know more of the important stuff?
I began wondering about this whenever we visit the Bark Park, a patch of green grass in the midst of a concrete jungle. It is the social time and place for the neighborhood made up of apartment dwellers – for the dogs and their humans. The dogs have their own way to greet each other (it involves a lot of sniffing and turning) while their owners follow a different pattern (a quick glance, smile or nod, then maybe a short conversation).
I am certainly no expert on the sociological behaviors of the canine or human species, but perhaps we could learn something from our four legged friends.
The dogs who enter the park shy or reserved are treated differently than the happy, exuberant ones who fall all over themselves to be liked. Just imagine the contrast between a Chihuahua and a Golden Retriever. Or the aloof, aristocratic entrance of an Afghan Hound to that of a Great Dane. While each breed has its own personality and characteristics, each one slightly adapts to the other dogs in the park.
Last night, for example, our usually reserved Afghan actually started playing with the coal black Great Dane! This only lasted for 30 seconds before Godiva (guess which dog she is) decided that she would revert back to her standard mode and she gracefully trotted off to another part of the park. The Dane, not to be ignored, followed her and they seemed to have a quiet interlude under the small tree that overlooks Downtown.
Needless to say, both the guy who owns the Dane and myself were astonished.
“I have never seen him act that way with another dog,” he explained. “Usually Max just bowls right over other dogs. He NEVER is still!”
I just shook my head. “Godiva NEVER plays with other dogs – I still can’t believe it!”
Just as we were trying to process what just happened, the two new friends calmly walked over to us, tongues hanging out and a joyful expression in both pairs of eyes. There was no big announcement of “look what I did.” Instead, the attitude of both dogs was “that was fun, but now I am ready to go sleep.”
A total shift in behavior and then back to normal.
The dogs did not hide behind masks of social acceptance, trying to behave a certain way just to be part of the group. Neither did they act differently than how God made them. Each was true to himself and his breed, but both stepped out of their usual traits to learn more about the other. Each dog was well grounded in who he was and what he was, but neither hesitated to try something new.
We should transition so easily and gracefully.