Like most of you, I read descriptions of dogs looking for homes. In their effort to make sure the dogs go to the right homes, these descriptions are, at the same time, celebratory (cuddly, smart, energetic) and cautionary (best to a home without children, prefers to be only dog, needs lots of exercise).
I’ve never done online dating. But that form of matchmaking is about enticing you with the good characteristics of a prospective mate. Maybe it would be better if they took the same approach as pet adoption sites. After all, everyone has some good qualities. But can you stand to live with their bad ones?
You see, that’s my pet theory about relationships. The most successful ones are when you find the person whose bad habits you can tolerate the best. I could probably find other men who would appreciate my quirky sense of humor and ability to whip up a good meal in fifteen minutes or less using fresh ingredients. But how many people would tolerate my little pieces of paper with cryptic notes gathering all over the house and my pathological need to be reassured every ten minutes that I’ve done something well? I think I found the only one.
Ok, back to dogs. My first dogs, Agatha and Christie, did a lot of damage around the house. They found one small slit in the kitchen vinyl floor and managed turn it into a seven foot long hole. They tore the stuffing out of not one, but two, couches–one was an antique. Oh, and my cookbook collection? They ruthlessly tore the bindings off them. No, not all of them. Only the expensive ones–the $60 Julia Child baking book and the Italian cookbook with lots of beautiful photographs.
For some people that behavior would have meant a quick trip to the pound. But I just assumed that’s the way dogs behaved and I shouldn’t mind so much.
Of course, I also could have practiced some management, explored crating, and started working on more exercise and training but I wasn’t that smart then.
If your dog is shy or possessive or destructive and you’re working with her, you might have just found your match–the dog whose bad habits you’re able to handle (even if it’s not easy). Some people could never handle a shy dog; they’d be too impatient. And we’ve probably all met someone who got a Jack Russell terrier thinking it was a lap dog but couldn’t tolerate the energy levels and mischief.
Agatha and Christie’s destructiveness was a good match for me. I’m a sloppy housekeeper and I’m not terribly attached to “things.” But if they had been “biters,” I might not have been such a good match. That’s one bad habit that really scares me. I don’t think I’m the person who can work with that issue.
So if you’re not perfect (and if you are, please tell me so; I want to learn how you did it) appreciate the people who love you. It’s probably not that you’re such a great person but that they can tolerate your weaknesses.
And if your dog isn’t perfect, and you love him anyway, appreciate yourself for being the right person to handle her weaknesses. You’ve made a good match.
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