19 February 2011

a pug katharine hepburn: my goal with daisy

I am not a negligent dog owner.

{I'm making that assertion based on Part 1 of this story, where you can read about how my little pug got me in trouble with the Association Board.}

I want to begin with this clear assertion because there are people who don't care if their dog is an excessive barker. They don't care if she's doing that because she's hungry or cold or bored or anxious—for whatever reason she's yapping away, they don't care.

I'm not like that. I'm not someone who got a dog and then seems surprised and angry when the dog exhibits dog-like behavior.

I don't want Miss Daisy to bark too much, and so I've been working with her. When I first got her, she did the normal bark-because-I'm-so-excited-you're-home thing, but I've been teaching her that she doesn't have to show her love with barking. She can be the strong but silent type, sort of like a pug Katharine Hepburn.

And she is becoming Katharine. She doesn't bark all that much when I get home now, and don't you find it amazing that dogs, little creatures who don't speak English, can be taught things? With enough repetition and reward, they will do what you ask, and maybe there's a life lesson in that.

Nor am I an oblivious dog owner. I'm not one of those people operating under the assumption that just because I like to be kissed by a dog {on the cheek only}, then everyone likes to be kissed. I know not everyone will find my pug adorable and endearing. Not everyone will think when they hear her bark, 'Ooh, look at the little scrunched up nose! I just want to hug her!'

Understanding this—and the fact that I live in a condo—I tried my very best to be a good neighbor and a good dog owner. I introduced Miss Daisy to my neighbors and preemptively apologized for any barking. I explained to them that I was training her to be strong but {mostly} silent, and I explained a bit of her sad story: lived outside, didn't get much love, certainly not used to hearing doors opening and closing as a normal, non-threatening part of life.

To Daisy, hearing noises in the hallway is a cue to be the guard dog she isn't. She barks, but I'm teaching her that she doesn't have to warn me about those noises. I know about my neighbors; she just needs to get used to them.

I explained all this to my neighbors, who said, “Oh, no, we understand. She's a dog, so she's bound to bark at times. And actually, we hardly hear her.”

Even with these reassurances, I lived in fear—the goody-two-shoes part of me—that I'd come home from work to find a note taped on my door. It'd be scrawled, the words written so fast and in such anger that the ballpoint tore through the paper: Your dog is annoying. Your dog barked too much today. Get your dog and get out of here.

That note didn't come, but more reassurances from the neighbors did and so I relaxed.

Until the letter from the Board came about Daisy's excessive barking.

I almost cried because I'd tried my very best, and it turns out that wasn't good enough.


There could be a long diversion here on that phrase: I'd tried my very best.

Because when you're a goody-two-shoes, you do operate under these incredibly high self-expectations, the kind that come with those categorical words you aren't supposed to use in fights with people you love: I will never get in trouble. I will never cause a disturbance. I will always meet, if not exceed, expectations. I will always try my very best. I will always get along with everyone.

And even when you grow up enough to realize that no one—except yourself—expects those always and never statements from you, you can still struggle to let go of this view of the world. This view of yourself.

You learn to, though. You learn that conflict is a healthy, necessary part of life—especially that part where you learn how to work well with people you disagree with.

Get to know enough people, and you learn that it's impossible to get along with everyone because not everyone gets along with you. This does not, of course, give you license to be mean or rude to them.

You learn that you should try your very best, but if that doesn't work, that doesn't mean you're a failure at every part of life. It means that even the best didn't work, but you did the best you could. And you move on.

But in moments of crisis and confrontation, you can quickly revert to the categorical view of the world if you're a goody-two-shoes at heart. With your red Mary Janes strapped too tightly on your feet, you clumsily dance around these ideas: I always mess up. I'm never good enough.

The most effective way I've found to get through these categorical times is to kick off the Mary Janes. Kick them far away from you, and then you can do a little barefoot dance around these ideas: I'm trying my best, and that is good enough.

Life feels better when you aren't always kicking yourself, you know.


{After that digression, you can jump ahead to Part 3 now: the conclusion!}

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts with Thumbnails