Monday, April 6, 2009

the nature of a dog

We spent Saturday morning at a popular Maple Syrup festival. The main street was shut down and filled with local artisans peddling their wares; children sat on bales of hay licking their sticky, sweet fingers and crowds of people moved through the festival, stopping now and then to greet neighbours with a hearty hello. It was not, however, Sophie's favorite scene. She pulled on her leash - which she hates. She cowered at the noise. She huddled up close to my legs when we stopped, with her tail tucked in. There were other dogs at the festival: big, gentle Labs with two or three kids hanging off them; a little Yorkie walking confidently down the sidewalk at the end of her flexi lead; a Retriever puppy dozing away in his owner's arms. But not Sophie...which is why we don't often take her on outings like that anymore.



Sophie went to many events like this when she was a pup as I attempted to acclimate her to everything...a Santa Claus parade; Remembrance Day ceremonies; our local Bread & Honey festival. She was generally okay although never completely comfortable, but I thought if we kept exposing her she would adjust and be that dog I wanted that I could take anywhere with me. As time went on, however, as she started to come into her own and I grew to know this dog that I would be sharing my life with, I realized that she had her own nature, her own personality and I wanted her to be the dog that she was...not the one that I was trying to mold her into being.



So leash walks became fewer as we sought out our trails; we steered away from crowds as she bounded through wide green fields and play dates with other dogs fell by the wayside as we perfected our agility course dance together. I believe our connection is stronger because I recognize Sophie's nature and permit her to be what she needs to be: a spirited border collie who loves to run wild with the wind. On the occasions when we are at the dog park and Sophie, while not at all aggressive, is disinterested in the other dogs, I will often have people say: "It's too bad she's not interested in playing with other dogs." And I ask myself...is it?



Dogs are diverse and unique creatures....it's one of the things that I love the most about them. They have distinct traits...some genetic, some taught...but the sum of those traits make them the dogs that they are. I can remember when I started to really see Sophie....swimming in a blue lake on a clear day; tearing down the rail trail wild-eyed with a tail full of burrs; driving a flock of sheep over a rolling meadow. And I can remember closing my book on leash training for the last time; canceling our Tuesday night play sessions; and just smiling at the person who thought it was too bad she wasn't social enough with other dogs. As I toss the Frisbee for this great dog, watching with pride as, leaping into light of the setting sun, she pulls it effortlessly out of the air, I think: she loves me just the way I am...at the very least I can return the favor.

42 comments:

T said...

Beautiful post Andrea! Kudos to you for allowing Sophie to be who she is, and allowing her to show you who she is!

gigi said...

I really loved your writing on this post. I so felt for Sophie. I sure felt you love and concern for her feelings.

Maggie May said...

Sophie sounds wonderful. Have you read ' A Pack Of Two '?

detroit dog said...

Sweet photos, great post.

Selba said...

Love the black and white photos!

Holly said...

I think many herding dogs are like this. In my pack of 6 (number 7 went to live with Youngest Daughter, her own special person), I have one who could care less about other dogs, several who need other dogs like they need air and food and a couple somewhere in between. I don't make the dog who doesn't love other dogs deal with dogs outside our pack. She got her CD, and that was good enough for me. Instead we do the things together that she likes to do...go to the gamelands, track, learn new tricks. Whatever...she is perfect the way she is.

Mildred said...

I agree with you that just like people are all different, so are dogs and we should accept them as they are. Harriet grew up in a kennel and the one thing we have trouble with is potty training. She's perfect in every other way, so what difference does it make? She loved and accepted my mother's blindness and she is attentive to Nalley now that he is homebound. She does what many people would not do! I love these photos of Sophie tonight. Hope you enjoy the rest of the week.

HalfCrazy said...

This is a great touching post, Ms. Andrea!

A lot of dog owners want to mold their dogs to whatever they want to be. Dogs have feelings too, we need to respect them. :)

Hilary said...

Too many people try to make their pets fit into their image of the perfect animal, and break their spirit in the process. Good for you for see, knowing and loving Sophie as she is. You're the only pack she needs.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Wonderful perspective Andrea..you said it well! Chance does fine out and about except if the noise level is really loud..like at the county fair. All the kids screaming and squealing and the noise of the rides was overload for him..it was a warm day so he and I sat away from the noise under a tree and just watched. You have to take the cue from your dog..whatever makes them happy!:)

Carolynn said...

Now THAT is a love letter if I ever heard one.

How absolutely wonderful that you had the grace and good sense to step out of the way and let your dog's unique personality emerge. She sounds like a one-woman dog and obviously adores you. Not everyone likes crowds.

Robynn's Ravings said...

Oh that ministered to me so MUCH. I needed to hear your wise words. I'll have to read that again.

My Minky is so very high-spirited and is over stimulated easily. She loves to run....and run....and run. And then bark excitedly. I've wondered how I will "fix" her. Now I may wonder how I will celebrate her. :)

Sharon said...

Andrea: You truly have the writer's gift. You are able to successfully put your feelings & thoughts into words that can move your readers. Your story about Sophie has brought tears of joy to my eyes. Thank you for sharing with us over and over again, and I LOVE your photos of Sophie too:)

SassyDog said...

She is her own dog, love her the way she is. I think she just wants to be with you and I wouldn't be worried at all.

Katherine Aucoin said...

Beautiful post. Sophie is very blessed to be with you sand I know you feel the same about her.

Joanne said...

It's wonderful to be so in tune with a dog's heart and soul, and goes a long way in building a deep bond for eachother. Sophie's a very lucky dog.

I rock on said...

I agree 100%, people always say the same thing to me about Marty, and I always think the same thing you did - why does it matter if he plays well with other dogs or not? he'd rather be solitary and ripping up a trail - and most times - so do I. :)
great post.

Thoughts said...

I can't believe that I have never been to this blog before, it's fantastic! You have a GREAT header, wonderful pictures, and true passion that shines on through.

Fantastic blog, I will definitely be back!

Jaime Smith
thoughtsfurpaws.com

Pam said...

I love the last pic of Sophie. This post makes so much sense, we are all different and have different likes and dislikes.

Ed said...

Great post and pics as usual, I don't blame Sophie, i hate crowds also and prefer the quiet solitude of the river...:-)

Claire said...

I love this post, Andrea. You totally hit the nail on the head in a way I can really relate to. We got Roux before Kinley, and I was the same way; taking her everywhere all the time. I thought the more she was exposed to, the better. At first she was fine, but then she started getting worried around other dogs, and a few times she got so nervous she'd foam at the mouth and shake. I couldn't figure out what was going on--why didn't she like other dogs?? I sought out help (and read Suzanne Clothier's book, Bones Would Rain From The Sky--if you haven't read it, it's a MUST), and I feel like I understand and appreciate who she is in a whole new way. I have embraced Roux's personality: she is complex, sensitive and she is a worrier. In short, she takes after her mom :) I've learned that there are some situations in which Roux is happier left out of (ie dog parks with 45 dogs running around like maniacs). And I've also learned how I can make her feel more secure through my own actions in other situations, and that has made all the difference.

Sorry for the crazy long comment! I just definitely understand what you're saying and I'm glad you've gotten to a point where you are happy to just let Sophie be Sophie!

Barry said...

Beautifully said Andrea! I feel exactly the same way about Lindsay. She will say a friendly greeting to other dogs when we meet them, but has no interest in playing with them. And I take her for runs off leash as much as possible.

Neas Nuttiness said...

Oh Andrea - this may be your best post yet! If only more owners would realize that our 4 legged friends, have different personalities...just like we do.

George - my pug, is a happy go lucky guy. Everyone who comes his way becomes a friend for life. He is happy in almost every situation.

Gracie - my Carolina Dog, is a totally different creature. She is intensely loyal, sweet, and very loving...but crowds, and other dogs (unless brought into our home and properly introduced), make her a nervous wreck.

I must admit that I watch shows like, It's Me of the Dog, and
Caesar Milan...and I think that they dispense a lot of good info, But - I have to wonder how many dogs don't "fit" into their training modes. We, after all, only see what they consider as "success stories".

As long as both parties (dog and human) reach a happy meeting of the minds...it spells success to me!

Flower said...

What endearing thoughts about Sophie! On my walk today I met a gal with a Boarder Collie...pup!! The pup is a foster dog until a home is found. I got to hold and kiss the baby....pretty cute!!
You are so lucky to have a dog that gives you unconditional love! Sophie is lucky to have you!

The OP Pack said...

Yes, it is best to let the pup be who he or she is, and work within that framework. As long as Sophie is happy and you are too, go with it.

Woos, the OP Pack

Lose That Girl said...

Beautifully moving post. Sophie is lucky to have you.

Fenway said...

Boy, did Ms. Alpha need to read your post today! What wisdom and insight.

She's been fighting the same battle as you and is learning about GIVE AND TAKE.

I have definite expectations and love routine. I am happy to be in her (and Mr. Alpha's) world with my frisbee, Green Ball, and Vet Man. And I love to run and work. Crowds and strange places make me uncomfortable and hyper, too.

Ms. Alpha has learned to scoff at the "sociable dog" owners who make snide remarks about me preferring to play ball with her instead of running willy nilly with a pack. They think I'm in training a LOT, but I am happiest when I'm practicing agility or obedience, cause its WORK.

We are lucky dogs because our owners are willing to meet our strong willed nature's at least half way!

Dughallmor Beagles said...

Wow! Again! So beautifully written, as ever, gorgeous photos too!
You are a rare breed....someone who has such a deep understanding of dogs is hard to find.
I love reading you :D

Jan said...

Kind of like how we have to just accept our kids. Can't change them so just enjoy them.

Martha Basset said...

Hi Andrea
We are like Sophie in that neither of us would be comfortable in a situation with lots of people and noise.
We like to go for nice runs in the country where we can get off our leads.
We are glad that Sophie has someone to understand her. We, like humans, are all different. We wouldnt expect every human to be the same!
love
Martha & Bailey xx

SGR said...

Woof! Lovely & sweet post. Lots of Golden Woofs!

The White Bench said...

Hello Andrea!
So glad you visited and left a comment! I love all, over here!
Have a bright and Happy Easter,
Monica.

Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff... said...

Wow........what a fantastic blog you have here Andrea!! I blog for the Humane Society where Prince and I volunteer....it's the reasonI started and the reason that I still do so :)
If you have a moment or two of your life that you'd care to never get back, please visit me at my blog and click on "The Daily Puppy" at the top of the page.
Have a blessed Easter and......

Steady On
Reggie Girl

Sherri said...

Andrea, you know the old saying, "He's a man's man." I've always thought it meant a man other men were very comfortable with. Works for women , too -- and from what I have seen -- dogs. Our Beau is a people dog with a lot of human traits. When we meet other dogs on our walks, he ignores the majority of them but makes a beeline for their owners. He simply LOVES people. He cares little for socializing with pups except for ONE. His buddy, a bichon frise named "Cody." But, even then, he loves Cody's owner, Dom, more than he does Cody. :)

You've hit the nail on the head. Much like raising children, it is so important to let them be true to their individual personalities. We want them to learn good manners...but beyond that, we need to let them have the freedom of being an individual. Love this post and I guess you can tell, related to it.

Samantha ~ Holly and Zac ~ said...

Lovely shots!

My two don't take much notice of dogs, they do like to say hello and meet them but neither of mine want to run around and play with them much. They both prefer to chase balls than dogs. It is a quick sniff, hello and then back to balls for them.

I wonder whether it is the breed sometimes as i find a lot of BC's we meet seem to be like that.

The Write Girl said...

Hey Andrea,

I love Sophie!! She reminds me of myself a little lol. I'm not so big into the social scenes either. I love that Sophie enjoys soaking in nature and being content in the simplicity of life. One of my favorite posts : )

The Write Girl said...

P.S. I love the photo of Sophie smiling...so sweet : )

Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff... said...

Thank you for your sweet comment...
Andrea, won't you please join us for "Friday Shoot-Outs"? We all have great fun......Barry is a gagn member and we have Brasil, China, Japan, Manila, Hawaii and lots of cities in the U.S. represented. Think about it please.
Have a blessed Easter and......

Steady On
Reggie Girl

P.K said...

Hmm...dogs are their own beings, however if dogs have anxieties or are unsure of the situation, as their human I think it important to help them be comfortable in noisy or crowded situations. My dog is very anxious and fearful, but with work she is more sure and not as nervous. A happy dog, a happy human.

Tatersmama said...

What a perfect post... and what a wonderful thing it is, that you accept Sophie just as she is.

Sophie is truly blessed that she found you - because she's got exactly what she needs!

I have to admit that I burst out in tears while reading this... it touched my heart that much. Total acceptance is what we all seek, so thank you so much for sharing!

{{{big hugs}}}
Katie

gigi said...

Happy Easter to you and Sophie.

Oz Girl said...

So true, like their human counterparts, dogs have characters and personalities all their own! Bravo to you for letting Sophie be the wonderful dog she was meant to be. :)

Such lovely photos of her, as always. ;-) I always enjoy your photos and stories... you are so talented!