The Human-Dog Bond

Posted: September 2, 2006 at 12:15 am

Phoebe is a really nice dog, but she is neurotic. Her one really horrible habit is freaking out when she is wrapped in her blanket and down for the count…then she becomes a red whirling shark attack. Just let someone, human or animal inadvertantly even think to come close to her space and out flies her snapping serpentine face like a morey eel from it’s cave. She did it to Jack tonight which upset both Jack and me. I picked up our little frightened muffin and sat with her on the couch right next to Phebes. I told Phoebe I loved Jack and she must never frighten her. I held Jack and comforted her and told her that Phoebe was sorry. Did Phoebe know what I was saying?…no…did she get that Jack is special and I was upset?…yes. Is Jack currently laying on the couch, right next to Phoebe wrapped up in her blanket?…yes again. And why is it ok now? Because dogs read our body language, and when we really feel something profoundly and completely, our bodies do not lie. Phobe remembers that I love her, but she is learning from watching me that I love others too. And Phoebe, like all dogs who want to be loved, wants the person that they want to love them, to be happy. A happy person who you love is very important to them. It is more important than having the whole couch and the whole blanket to yourself. Humans mostly do not send clear signals to dogs that they can understand and trust. We get all messed up in our heads with shoulds, shouldn’ts, I am not sures and I cannot deal with this anymore’s. Dogs can’t read our indecision, they can’t read us at all when we are waffling and emotionally flailing around. But when they have a strong bond with a human, they can read our truths very well. We selectively bred them for thousands of years to be loyal to us. To protect us and to serve us and to love us above all else. We bred them to place their human’s needs  above thier own, and every single dog who has a strong bond with a human will do whatever they can to make their human happy. Phoebe keeps trying but she hasn’t found that yet.

We underestimate a dog’s ability to understand and reason. They reason quite well from two perspectives. opportunistic  self centeredness and pleasing the person that they love. When Phoebe cares enough about a human, she is a very good dog, but when she cares too much about herself because she holds herself back, she runs into trouble. Teaching Phoebe is not about teaching her right from wrong, it is about teaching her that giving her heart to another is a safe and wonderful thing to do, and Phoebe wants that human bond. She is sometimes angry and frustrated because we keep breaking the promise with her. She does not understand this, because it is not something that she is ever capable of doing herself. She is ever hopeful, that one day, she will find that human who will place as much value in this bond as she does. Right now, Jack is sleeping on the couch with her because she is hoping that this elusive human bond, might be with me.

Having said all that, some dogs will never have that bond…like Andy. Andy lost his chance thru a backyard puppy mill which never allowed him to formulate a bond pr to ever understand the human-dog relationship. He knows it is missing, he sees it every day with the other dogs and me and he tries in his cautious and distrustful way to have it too. But his fear will always over-ride that need. It takes nothing to throw Andy back into confused unhappiness…Cole’s irritation with him last evening, and his fear today when he realized he was out with the dogs for a run with Mo, but I was not there. It upset his balance in his little world, and tonight he was back under the couch and refused to run with us again. He has had set backs before, and he will find his  safe place inside himself again. But always, because that human-dog bond is forever fractured, it will occasionally slip for him and plunge him back into fear. All we can ever do for Andy, is to ensure that no matter what space he is in on any given day, that he knows, he is absolutley fine and good and loved whether he is running in the field and playfully popping me with his feet, or hiding under the couch and refusing to come out.

Maybe someday both Andy and Phoebe will really know and trust in the human bond, maybe someday they will both believe that it is real and it is forever, no matter what. But for now, they are both broken, because humans did not understand the depth of need inside a dog’s heart. There are alot of dogs in the world who are broken, and each and every one one of them broke because a human was careless or thoughtless or selfish or uncaring. The fault is never inside the heart of a dog, it is inside the heart of mankind.

I don’t know if Andy will ever get there, and I do hope that Phoebe does for sure…my bonding with Phoebe is grounded in touch, she craves it. And my bonding with Andy is in not touching, because it frightens him. Two different dogs, two broken parts, yet similar because they both need something special from a human to be free.

7 Comments on "The Human-Dog Bond"

  • Yvette says

    What a bautiful way with words you have. Your insight and observations are tremendous and oh so real. I know what you are saying – my two – Redman and Tessa are like Andy and have the same fears and anti-trust issues. Every day is different – some days Redman will eat from my hand others he is hiding. Tessa grumbles and complains – someday I hope she will come forward too. For now they are safe and happy here like yours are with you. Thank you for saying what I feel.

  • Leila says

    Phoebe is a funny little girl. She is high anxiety and her anxiety interferes in her learning to trust humans – just as it did for Lexi. But I think Phoebe would like to connect to people and dogs, she just doesn’t know how to go about doing it. She will find that very right person who will show her the way because that is what Phoebe wants.

    I certainly don’t live with Andy and I don’t know him the way you do Carol. He is fearful of people whereas many other puppy mill dogs are not. There is something inately in him that distrusts. But can I pose another theory here and this definitely the way I view the dog/human relationship. Yes, when Andy sees others connecting to a human, he does momentarily want what his peers have. But when no human is around I would bet that Andy is perfectly content. I don’t believe (despite all that breeding) that every dog, wants, desire, lives for human contact. That need for connection, Andy gets from Cole and Lexi and Tyra. Why is that less than having a connection with a human. Why is that not equal or greater than a connection with a human. Why

    Dogs live with us because that is how we, as the most dominant species, have set it up. Do they need us – I don’t think so. Yes Andy looks sad when he is afraid to go up and touch a human when others are but Patrick looks sad when he doesn’t get to go out – doesn’t mean he wants to be out all the time.

  • carol says

    good point, and you are right…i don’t think andy is sad because he doesn’t trust humans. but i think it is sad that he is curious and yet too afraid to find out more. on the whole he is perfectly happy when we follow his doggy pack rules. don’t touch, take them for runs, passively participate but not too active, be happy and don’t mess with his program of andy contentment. but from a human point of view…we bred him and to what purpose? because if not for saints, andy would be dead….there is no place in the human world for dogs like andy. i do wonder if andy’s curiosity towards human relationships comes from his youth, a naturally inquistive brain or from his heritage…maybe a combination of all three? interesting to think about how he came to be as he is…not only is he super cute, but he is quite interesting and endearing too.

  • Leila says

    “there is no place in the human world for dogs like andy”

    My point exactly – if he can’t fit into our human world than there is no point to him to humans because we are supposed to be the “b all and end all” to dogs. Well sometimes we are not. I love the fact that Andy thinks dogs come first. Sometimes breeding takes us in different directions (natural selection can sometimes happen even in purposeful breeding). If Andy sired some children, it would be interesting to see what they are like. Andy was breed for looks obviously but humans never think about what characteristics they change, or intensify when they breed for a physical trait. Okay, now I’m going to start ranting because I hate that humans breed other species for their own uses.

  • Carol says

    good rant, i am with ya!

  • sheila says

    The reality though is that Andy’s world does involve humans. Carol and all the volunteers and visitors that come through Saints… and it is sad that he is nervous of what is a big part of his world.

  • Carol says

    well he was over it all by tonights run…he was cheerful and he popped me and he followed cole around like a happy little son. i accidently brushed him with my foot and he didn’t care, and he chased me when i pretended to run from him and then walked by my side around the pond, til tally looked more interesting. he is just so freaking cute, it is hard to honor his rules of engagement, but i do…i really wanna hug our little disney dog.

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