I have never viewed any of my dogs as possessions. They don’t own me, and I don’t own them. I am their guardian. It is my job to make them feel safe and wanted, always. We co-exist. We share space. We live together. Yes, of course they live with me physically, but what I am talking about is how I view our relationship…I live with my dogs. It isn’t a top-down relationship. We live in harmony with each other. I expect very little of my dogs; the less I expect, the more they give (if that makes sense). This isn’t to say that they are not trained, but they don’t ever have to be perfect little soldiers. They go out the door first for very practical reasons; there is limited space at the top of the stairs, it is safer for me to let them go first. They lead the walks they go on, and they are walked on 20-foot-long lines, in the woods where they have the latitude to meander and engage with the environment in a more natural way. They eat before me or while I am eating my dinner, most of the time we eat together like a family would. And yes, my dogs sleep with me if they want to and most of the time they want to. Quality sleep is essential to overall health for both humans and canines. My dogs like me seek a comfy place to sleep, and because they would rather be with me than sleep alone on their beds or the couch, they are always welcome in my bed. My dogs bark, make noise, play rough, knock things over, get dirty, bring mud in the house, refuse to go out in the rain, turn their noses up at dinner, sometimes skip meals, pester the cat, follow me in the bathroom, are very nosey, have no concept of personal space, and steal the cat’s food whenever they get the chance. And that’s all okay. They are, after all, dogs. They are not robots, to be programed to behave in unnatural ways. They are sentient beings with opinions and feelings, needs and desires and to treat them as anything less is a disservice to them and to your relationship.
I thought about Marty, who was left alone for 10 plus hours a day, and how he had to eat off of the same floor he relieved himself on, how he was surrendered twice by two previous owners to two different shelters, and how frightening that must have been for him, and how the kindness of the animal control officer at the last shelter saw his potential, and how we drove two states away to bring him to where he was right now…safe in my bed. I thought about all that trauma and how trauma is stored in the body and impacts every facet of existence. And I wept knowing that neither of these dogs would ever have to worry about being abandoned, neglected, feeling alone, going hungry or feeling unsafe again.
It has been both an honor and privilege to not only live with these two dogs, but to watch them develop their relationship with each other and be a part of that unique experience. I cherish having the opportunity to enjoy the individual relationships we share and just spending time with each other without any expectations.
Whether you spend time with your dog just snuggling in your bed or sitting in the grass feeling the sun on your faces and the breeze in your hair, never forget the most important parts of life are that we all deserve the experience of freedom, connectedness and peace.
Special thanks to:
Blooper Animal Rescue & Transport
Baypath Humane Society
Hartford Animal Shelter Partnered with Hartford Police Department