My sister sometimes tells me that cats hurt her feelings. It takes a strong ego (something none of the women in my family are cursed with) to live with a creature who appears not to care if you’re there or not.
Dogs–the gregarious, “can’t wait for you to come in the door”, wagging like a fool kind–can be an amazing ego boost.
I sometimes think about all the burdens I’ve placed on my dogs. They have to suffer my moods and I can’t say to them, “It’s not you, I’m just feeling a little low; don’t take it personally” like I can with my husband (well I can say it but it probably won’t mean as much to them).
And as much as I try to avoid it, I know I interpret their lives through my own patterns of thought and weird neuroses.
I sometimes look deep into Honey’s eyes trying to see if she’s happy. Does she have everything she needs? Is there something that would really make her life better that I’m just not providing?
I’ve seen other people pick up their little lap dogs, squeeze them tightly, and murmur in high squeaky tones about the unconditional love their dog gives them even as he’s squirming or licking, or otherwise showing extreme discomfort with all the hugging. I sometimes wonder if I also misread the desires of my dog and what messages I’m missing.
I guess all this wondering is what comes from being in a relationship.
Yes, sometimes I will do something to Honey she just doesn’t enjoy very much. Because I need to and just can’t help myself. Like trying to stroke her fur while we’re playing tug. And she’ll either decide to put up with it or end the game and walk away.
But most of the time, I’ll recognize that Honey doesn’t enjoy being petted all the time. Sometimes she just wants to play. And I’ll put my desires aside and do what she finds fun.
Because Honey can’t speak in English and because she isn’t free to just walk away and find a new home if she finds this one doesn’t meet all her needs, I’ll never know if she’s perfectly content.
That’s why I’ll need to keep nurturing the relationship. Pay attention to what gives her joy. Balance my needs with hers. And try very hard not to only see her as a reflection of my own weird mind.
How do your animals reflect your thoughts and dreams? Do you “check in” on your relationship? How do you know when you’re doing a good job?
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