Friday, August 31, 2012
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.
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,