One of my favourite quotes by Harville Hendrix is framed and visible on my work desk, for all those who walk in to see. “We are born in relationship, we are wounded in relationship, and we can be healed in relationship.”
I was introduced to this type of thinking over twenty years ago. Times have changed. People have changed. Perceptions have changed. I have changed. This was brought home to me recently.
I was visiting someone who has dogs. For hours the rescue dog was outdoors and I watched him intermittently. Then, someone opened the door. He came in and went straight to my feet and settled himself. Ordinarily, I would be wary. I have been bitten by dogs on two occasions. Even though these events happened in the distant past, the anxiety around dogs remained. At a delicious lunch at a seaside cafe, my colleague mentioned casually. She observed I was no longer nervous around dogs. Usually, she is protective of me, but did not have to step in to redirect this time. I reflected on her observation.
A few years ago my daughter bought M. It took months before I could stay alone at home with M. As the days became weeks, her bond with me strengthened each day. She would give me a baleful, disapproving look each time she watched me pack my suitcase. She knew I didn’t like her jumping on me. Desperate to eat her dinner, she would whimper but sit outside the glass door until I allowed her in. She learned and obeyed my hand command for ‘stop’ almost like it was instinct in her. While working at home, the silences between the frenetic keystrokes would prompt her to tap, tap, tap her tail, to let me know she was still there. All communicated without a word, trust grew between us.
My daughter and her partner bought another dog, a companion, they thought for M. A purebred puppy. I was disapproving and wary. No, I tell a lie. I was scared. The words, “dominant”, “needs firm training”, “protective of family” did nothing to ease the anxiety. My daughter wanted him for protection, her partner being FIFO (fly in fly out worker). I knew he wasn’t the right breed for the family, especially as he was an aloof puppy when only a few weeks old. I was proved right. A few months later, his aggression nearly killed M. There was nothing the young adults could do, but return the puppy to the breeder. Then, they bought another puppy.
We all fell in love instantly. She smiles! All day! At anything! And, anyone! For her, everything is love at first sight. She shares the love with thousands. Her social media presence and following, is strong!
M was wary of Em from the very start. Walked away from her on approach. M’s memory of being attacked still fresh. She watched from a distance as Em became beloved and in turn, loved others. Em did not give up. She loved M and was never far from her. Soon M started to respond to Em when she brought toys to her, barking insistently for play time. M would sigh, a big old sigh of exasperation, climb off the sofa, and indulge Em for a while.
Em is now 11 months old and 45 kg. M and Em are inseparable.
Harville got it right.
Until next time
a dawn bird