Every morning, we follow the same routine at my house. I wake up first, let Gonzo out, let Gonzo in, and feed all the animals. I eat my breakfast at the computer, make the girls theirs, and drive them to school on the days I work later. Right now, Cathy is simultaneously having pancakes and getting ready for school. Gonzo is behind me, full of food and empty of...yesterday's food.
So, when I was feeding Gonzo today, I was petting him as he ate and thinking what a special dog that he lets me do this. Some dogs don't like anyone near the food bowl when they are eating. I have even reached into Gonzo's mouth on occasion and retrieved something he should not have picked up. He lets me, because he trusts me. Even when he was hit by the car and his hips were broken, he let Wayne and I pick him up in a blanket and never barked or bit anyone, just seemed to know we were trying to help. Because he trusts people. And he's never had reason not to. He has been loved and spoiled from day one, needing only to look at us to communicate his needs. Abused dogs learn to fight back, to nip and growl, and attack figures who remind them of past abusers.
People also do this. We all learn from past experiences and relationships; these can change our behavior forever. We may not bite, but we pull back, withdraw, and find it hard to trust. We follow, worried our owners will abandon us, if we've been abandoned in the past. Sometimes, people behavior can seem crazy, to others and sometimes to ourselves, but it's never really crazy if we just put ourselves in the other person's shoes. There is always a story that makes sense of what we are doing and why. And if we can reach out and touch with love a poor dog who didn't deserve his bad life, we can do the same for each other, and maybe help bring about change. Even shelter dogs can change, if they are loved. People can, too.
That gives me hope, for myself and for the people I know who deserve to be loved, but don't think they do. My own personal issue is having difficulty talking when I am upset, about what has upset me, to the people with whom I am upset. It got better this weekend, though I have a long way to go before I am as trusting and loving as Gonzo. Can I just say again, what a wonderful dog he is? : )