Saturday, November 19, 2005

Why can't we all just get along?

My dear, sweet little Maya is recovering quickly from being spayed. Poor thing - she ran around the house with seven staples in her abdomen for nine days. Those miniscule pain pills she was taking must have worked very well because the day that we brought her home from the surgery, she ran up the stairs without stumbling even once. I had to chase her, grab her (gently) and put her in her crate; clearly, she was in no pain, but I was concerned that one of those staples was going to come out. Last Friday they were taken out, and she has continued to heal nicely. All in all, she did quite well.

Just a few minutes ago, I took her outside for a walk - and she peed and pooped without delay! (This is one smart dog!) Once she was done with her business, she took to chasing leaves, birds, and anything else that moved... including the 50 pound chocolate lab that lives next door. That dog could easily knock down the average person if she got up to speed and charged. I know that because she has gotten up and speed and charged me more than once - I thank God that I'm larger than average!

Anyway, Buddy (the neighbor dog) had just come back from her walk, and Maya ran right up to her and started sniffing her, chasing her, and playing with her. Of course, they bowed to each other, rubbed noses, and sniffed each other's private parts first. Fascinating ritual, isn't it? (Brief aside here: My daughter and I flipped through a doggie comic book at the pet store the other day and found one that showed two dogs in that head to tail stance. One said to the other, "We've gotta come up with a different way to greet each other.") As Maya and Buddy were being reacquainted, my neighbor Cliff told me about the doggie training class they take Buddy to on Mondays. He laughed as he described the way that the dogs greet each other every week.

"They lick, sniff, nip at each other's heels, grab each other by the throat, and wag their tails. All the while," he imagined, "they are probably asking each other how last week went, what was new with their owners, that sort of thing. Every now and then, one dog will get a little too rowdy and sink the teeth in a little too deeply, and a little scuffle ensues. A few growls, a few nudges, a hard stare - and then it's over. Maybe the following week, one dog has to be a little more submissive than usual at the start of the class, but then the issue is settled once and for all."

Then Cliff asked the pet-related parallel to the infamous Rodney King question: "Why can't we all just get along like dogs do? It doesn't matter which dog is bigger, which is pure bred, what they eat, where they poop, or how bad their breath is. They greet each other, kiss, sniff, lick, and then they get on with the business of being friends. Grudges are settled quickly, efficiently, and then forgotten."

Good question, Cliff. Dogs know how to deal with each other. Alpha dog status is quickly established. Boundaries are clear. Dogs know their place. Occasionally there is the scuffle that draws blood. Sometimes stitches are needed. But for the most part, dogs are forgiving, loving, accepting, tolerant animals. They look at their owners with unconditional love, with unwavering longing, and with unquestioned loyalty. Maya literally eats the socks I sweat in. She devours the hairy ends of carrots that I drop on the floor. She bows her head and wags her tail everytime I enter the room.

What a different world we would have if we learned to honor each other in a similar way! What if managed to overlook bad breath, smelly bottoms, and the fact so many of us are mutts? What if we found more reason to love and accept each other than to reject each other? What if we didn't care who had fleas and who had lost some teeth? What if we had our tussles, settled the matter, and then were determined not to bring it up again?

I know there are some misbehaviors that defy easy dismissal. Infidelity, violent episodes, abandonment, neglect, and abuse are tough to forgive and impossible to forget. Those are the biggies.

But let's face it; most of the things that we hold grudges for are not the biggies. Somebody borrowed $20 that they didn't return. Or maybe as much as $200. Someone forgot my birthday. Someone didn't send a thank you card for the gift I patiently chose, purchased, wrapped, and delivered. Someone criticized something I wrote or wore or said. She didn't return my email. He didn't return my call. She forgot the date we'd made to have lunch and stood me up. He rode his bike into my car and left a ding. She lost my sweater at the movie theater. They showed up late for the dinner we planned and painstakingly created. No one thanked me for the dinner I spent hours preparing. On and on goes the list of grievances. On and on goes the bitterness. And absolutely none of these things are worth the loss of a friendship or even an acquaintance.

We were dog snobs in our search process. My son Daniel and I are both allergic to dog fur, so when Kristiana did the research on which dogs we could own, the list was pretty short. When we began the search in earnest, we had to be sure that we were dealing with a purebred dog because we didn't want to take the chance of running into a dog that had a shedding gene in the mix. We chose a Yorkie because it has hair, not fur, it doesn't shed, and it will remain very small. No seventy-five pound hairball factories for us, thank you very much!

What if we could figure out a way to downplay the purebreed issue among the human species? Thankfully, my friends didn't exhibit the same pickiness when they chose me. I recognize and fully admit to the impurity of my bloodline: I can be moody, selfish, and snappy. I have been known to shed my anger and self-righteousness under every chair in my vicinity. I am suddenly needy and whiny, and often I leave smelly piles of self-importance in my wake. I thank God for my dear, forgiving, friends. They must strong stomachs in order to clean up after me and still tell me that I'm a good girl all these years. I thank them all for patiently training me to be a better wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. Okay, maybe I took that analogy too far, but here's the point: why can't we all just get along? And why can't I be equally accepting when I choose my friends?

Yet again, I will endeavor to follow Maya's noble example. Weighing in at a scant 4.1 pounds, every time Maya finishes her first order of business on the lawn, she sprints to the homes of her canine companions on the block, one after the other: the chocolate lab on one side, the mixed breed pointer on the other, the black lab across the street, and the house up the block that now has five dogs (they belong to Rob and Jen, the couple whose wedding reception we went to a few weeks back). Even though nearly every one of those dogs has knocked her over, barked at her, and tried in every possible doggie way to intimidate her, Maya is fearless in her approach. She has obviously forgotten their earlier antics and moved into the friendship phase of the relationship. With each furious wag of her tiny body, she screams: "Bygones are gone good-bye. Today's a new day; let's play."

Well, I'd better go. I'm gonna head downstairs and give my favorite teacher a dental treat; she likes those more than apples!

No comments: