Honey and I have something in common.
We like nearly everyone we meet.
Can you imagine how uncomfortable it feels when one of us discovers we don’t like someone?
I Just Hate Her
The first time she called me, she spent half an hour on the phone crying about her landlord.
Usually I’m quite patient with people in crisis who need to get things out. I’ve had more than one conversation with heavily medicated patients in the psychiatric ward looking for help buying a house when they are released. I want every person to feel like he’s the only person in the world when he meets with me.
But this woman made me nuts. The more I met with her, the more I hated her. And that is a word I don’t use lightly.
Even today, years later, if I saw her on the street, I would turn and walk the other way. Even if she saw me first.
It’s a good thing I’m not a dog. Because if I were forced to greet her while confined by a leash, I would bite her.
The Only Cat Honey Hates
We have two dog-tolerant cats in the neighborhood that Honey likes to greet on a walk. I make Honey sit and be still while the cat approaches her. Otherwise, her excited play bows would frighten off the felines.
Even cats who are wary of her attract Honey’s friendship. She sits and watches a cat as if to say, “I won’t hurt you. I just want to say hello.”
But there’s one cat in the neighborhood that Honey hates.
He lives two doors over with her Golden Retriever boyfriend. If Honey sees him in the yard next door, she goes tearing off the porch barking and chases him until he’s out of sight.
I’m not sure why Honey hates this particular cat so much. He’s a very successful hunter leaving dead squirrels, rats, and pigeons on his people’s front steps. Maybe Honey is a pacifist who abhors violence.
There is also one dog in the neighborhood Honey doesn’t like. It’s the same dog who attacked my previous dogs several times. When he walks by the house, Honey barks and lunges at the window like a lunatic.
I’ve never known her to do that with any other dog.
If we see this dog on a walk, we cross to the other side of the street. Honey doesn’t have to be nice to everyone.
Allowing Our Dogs to Pick Their Friends
I think a lot about our high expectations for our dogs.
We want them to be friendly and calm around everyone. But we don’t expect the same of ourselves.
I’ve avoided people I didn’t want to talk to. I’ve lied to get out of going to a gathering. I’ve made excuses to end a long conversation.
But dogs don’t have those options when they don’t like someone. While confined on the end of a leash, your dog might endure the following:
- an overly friendly person who pats him on the head or ruffs his fur the wrong way
- a noisy child with food smeared all over her face and hands
- an energetic puppy who jumps on his head
- a rude dog with poor greeting skills.
And what are his options if he’s on leash? Putting up with it, turning away and hoping someone gets the message, growling, and finally, biting.
Poor dogs. They don’t have the option of making excuses, sarcastic comments, or walking the other way.
Does Your Dog Want to Be My Friend
Since I’ve been blogging, I’ve stopped greeting dogs I meet on the streets. Reading about people whose dogs struggle with daily interactions has increased my sensitivity.
I no longer assume a dog is an extrovert who wants to be my friend. I admire her from a distance and wait to see if she approaches me. Usually she doesn’t. And that’s ok.
Every dog should be allowed to pick her friends.
It’s not that we should give up socializing our dogs and teaching them tolerance.
Just like we paste on a phony smile sometimes and nod politely to someone we’re not interested in speaking to, dogs need to learn how to deal gracefully with a range of social situations.
But they should also be allowed an excuse or two when they just don’t want to be someone’s friend.
Your Turn: Is your dog particular when choosing friends? Or does he like everyone? How about you?