I’ve recently been considering how we wield our willies. I mean WILLS! Ops. I don’t mean the legal kind, either. No. Or that British Prince. I mean our wants and desires, those things that so often come into conflict with other peoples’ wants and desires–or our paths to get them. But this post is not meant to be a pessimistic blog; I believe that we put our wills ahead of others because we are afraid. So, I’d like to share a lesson in sharing–sharing space and giving way from my will to another’s. And, to do this, we’re, you and I, going to become really good friends with my dog.
My dog is Misha. She is a twelve-and-one-half -year-old shihtzu puppy. I say puppy because, despite having a heart problem that makes her choke or fight to breath sometimes, most of the time she is extremely playful, silly, and bratty in the way that makes your heart brim full of happiness. Since Misha was little, she has been sort of stubborn. I think shihtzus are rather well-known for this tendency. She’s definitely done the mischievous look-over-the-shoulder-whilst-peeing-on-the-carpet, when she was being house-trained. Or, she, a 10-14lb dog, used to pull us by the cuff of our trousers when she was being walked. In fact, I doubt she believed she was being walked at all; she knew she was walking us. She also herds us where she wants to go. Like a sheep-dog pushing sheep into their pen, she runs behind you, pushing you towards the kitchen to make her food. Additionally, unlike most dogs, when you ask her if she needs to do a peepees or go outside, she will run away from you. CHASE ME, she laughs, as she runs around the house. She has, on numerous occasions, run back up the stairs to my bedroom.
Occasionally, I’ll, in a deeper voice, say, “MISHA…..what are you dooooing.” That’s usually when she is licking her foot. I sneak up, tap her on the shoulder. She looks up at me, moustache askew, with a look of innocence mixed with fierce wolf. And then I say, “ooooooohhhhh that’s so baaaaaaaaaad” She acknowledges she’s been caught being naughty, and runs away. Often times, she chokes, which is why I gently reprimand her. When she licks her paw, she pushes too much air down her throat and irritates her trachea, which already gets crushed by her enlarged heart. So, really, when I’m telling her not to do it, it’s not because I’m asserting my will, but I’m doing it to protect her.
The looks she gives you are so emotive. For a long time, people have not recognized the emotional capacity that dogs have. It’s only after science has backed up these ’emotional’ claims, that people are willing to believe. We are often accused of reading human emotions into animals. But, if we empathize and greet them with compassion, how can this be wrong? We should consider animals as varied and nuanced as we should consider our neighbours, friends, and even those we strongly dislike.
Wills are different. When Misha is being bratty, it’s like a young child learning to assert their will. A child will say “No!” or stop doing what they’re being asked to do because they’re learning that they don’t have to like everything they’re being asked to do or not do. Now, just because I don’t like going to bed earlier doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t go to bed earlier. But it’s how we all are. We all chose to do something or not do something.
Misha, on every walk, will likely be carried home. Sometimes, it’s because it is raining and Misha hates the rain. When it’s really hot out, I don’t let her walk on the pavement. Sometimes, it’s because she’s just woken up, so I take her to go pee (she goes 5x a day because of her heart medication), and she’s sleepy still. Sometimes, it’s because I allow her to walk forever in one direction and she gets tired. A lot of the time, it’s because she only wants to walk in one direction, and when I say she can’t go that way anymore (because we’ll be walking an age away from home), she does, what we call, a houdini, which is the classic, backing up, trying to shimmy out of one’s harness. When she was younger, she’d do this to actually escape and go where she wanted to go. This meant, I ran after an escapee a lot. Now, she does it to great effect in front of other people, cars, squirrels to make a point that she wants to go her way. Usually, this move is followed by a quick pee and a look that says “SEE! I HAD TO DO ANOTHER PEEPEES! YOU WERE GOING TO PREVENT THAT. SHAME ON YOU! FOOOOOORRRRRR SHAMMMMEEEEE!” haha. A lot of the time, I carry her home almost a kilometre. She always wants to stare at cars, too. If she was a human, she’d definitely be a formula 1 racer or some sort of car nerd. When I carry her home, she sits on my hip with her head over my shoulder, like a small child. Many times, she tries to drop her weight so she can look this way or that way. I don’t allow her to move because that’s the best position to keep pressure off of her heart. Many other times, she nestles into my neck and closes her eyes and does the silent shihtzu grumbly chatter.
But, I’ve learnt something from all of this. Sometimes, when we’re walking I’m really impatient or angry or upset from other things. Or, I’m cold or hot. Sometimes, I’d like nothing more than for her to do a quick pee and go home. Sometimes, I want her to not stop for so long because I’m impatient or cold. But, whenever I want rush her, I stop myself because even though she asserts her will in dawdling, making me carry her home because I didn’t let her sniff that rusty pole she knows she’s not allowed to sniff–it doesn’t hurt me or harm me to pick her up and carry her home. When she asserts her will, she’s not doing it to spite me. I’m sure she’s tired or she would rather be carried. I’ve learnt that asserting my will over hers does not make me happier. It just allows me to be selfish. I’ve learnt that carrying her home, back muscles being pulled, is so much better than anything else I know. I’ve learnt that we can share the assertion of the will, and that we don’t need to just be self-serving. In fact, doing things for others often does yourself more of a service than just asserting willy-nilly.
And then…you get a present as beautiful as this:
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