Friday, August 31, 2012

Pleasure Proxy

Today is "New Bone Day" at casa de Haskins. And as I sit here trying to write while listening to Beckett indulge in his fresh out-of-the-bag rawhide, I am wondering where I can find a human rawhide equivalent.  Something that makes me as happy and content and excited to be alive as Beckett's weekly treat does for him.  I am also wondering whether I selfishly give Beckett these little moments of enjoyment because most of my own happiness is vicariously derived. Usually, I find contentment in watching others have fun, and I enjoy the osmotic excitement I feel when my "New Bone Day!" announcement brings Beckett running, no matter where he is or what important job he is doing (or mess he is making) elsewhere in the house. Certainly, I want Beckett to be happy for his own sake, and I do believe that his display of lip licking and tail wagging whenever I hold out his new treat prove just how pure and uncomplicated his happiness actually is.  In Beckett's world, "I want something + I get something = I am happy."

But I also admit that in addition to making Beckett happy because I love him, I rather enjoy the simplicity of giving him something that seems to create such a positive reaction.  Because essentially, Beckett has become my pleasure proxy.

Now, I know plenty of people who do things for others at least in part because it fills the "do-er" with a sense of meaning. There is nothing wrong - and everything right - with enjoying a little of the positive energy we share with the world.  So I don't think I am at all unique in my emotional connection (Some might say dependence.  Some might say co-dependence.) to my dog.  After all, he is the being with whom I share my life.  He is where I have invested my time and my money and my energy since I brought him home almost a year ago, when he was nothing more than a seven-pound runt filled with parasites and worms and more medical problems than I could have imagined. While many people's children and partners occupy this central space in their lives, I have chosen to place my beautiful little Schnoodle there instead, so it makes sense that I am interested in what he likes, concerned about what upsets him, amused by his quirks and habits, and completely tuned into his abrupt shifts in mood or behavior.  But the interesting element to all this is that as time goes by, I am realizing that more often than not, Beckett's antics and his temperament are actually reactions to me.  So as convoluted as it sounds, as I key into what is going on with him, I am really connecting with something in myself.  This became painfully clear recently when, as Beckett and I were playing fetch, he grabbed his toy from my hand and accidentally bit into my finger, breaking skin and drawing a pretty significant amount of blood.  More shocked than hurt, I yelled without thinking: "OUCH!  DAMN IT Beckett!" which sent him running to his crate with his tail between his legs and his head down.  Fortunately, it took only seconds to reassure him, as I sat petting and hugging him, that I was okay, that I wasn't angry, and that he was not a bad boy. But my ability to scare and worry him without even thinking about the power that holds amazed me.  What's more, Beckett's refusal to leave my side for the rest of the night was both a sweet gesture and a sad reminder that I do influence him more than I ever realized. And more than I ever thought possible.

So now, even as I marvel at the pleasure I take in watching Beckett work his way through this rawhide bone, convinced that his excitement makes me as happy as watching other people eat satisfies my appetite, or seeing parents and their children at the park warms that small part of me that always longed for a family of my own, I wonder if perhaps Beckett's pure, uncomplicated happiness is actually a response to my "New Bone Day" excitement.  Maybe it is all in how we present ourselves to those who care most about us - When we hurt, they feel concerned. When we are happy, they feel a sense of joy on our behalf.  And when we are angry - well, they may run and hide at first, but generally, they care enough to stick by us until we stop bleeding and can honestly say that we are going to be alright.

I guess maybe that is what love is all about.  And I guess that the pleasure proxy goes both ways, regardless of whom we choose to share our lives with.  I am much more aware of the impact my volume and tone of voice have on Beckett now, and he seems to like the gentle, positive, upbeat tones best - so that is where I try to stay.  After all, it's hard to do anything but smile while you're announcing "New Bone Day!" to a puppy who has learned - from you - that this is what happiness feels like.

I would love to know what your pet(s) have taught you - about yourself, about life in general.  What are some of the ways you connect with your pet(s)?  What instincts do they have about you and vice versa?  Share here!

Until next time,
~~ Hasky


  1. As usual you are very insightful about our impact on others, two or four legged. The way we approach another is usually reflected back to us in their reactions, for better or worse. I have had this same realization with Barkis and more importantly my son. When you love someone, animal or person, you never want to be a negative in their lives.

  2. Where, oh where to begin. Having a dog is like having a perpetual two year old. My most recent two four-legged companions are both rescues. What that means is that in addition to their own unique breed and personal traits, they come with history that did not include me. So tolerance and acceptance and patience is key. Oh yes, balanced with firm limits too - they are like toddlers after all.


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