See Your Dog Through Someone Else’s Eyes – Good for the Dog; Good for You

We spend years training, managing, and loving our dogs. We know them inside and out.

But can we learn something new by seeing them through someone else’s eyes?

Honey the Golden Retriever gets an ear massage from her special friend Kirsten.

Ahhhh, yes, that’s the spot. Would you like to move in and become my official ear massager?

Meeting a Blogger and Her Dogs

I was surprised but thrilled when I got an email from Kirsten of The Peaceful Dog blog. Kirsten and her boyfriend Florian would be visiting Ithaca with their dogs, Fozzie and Lamar, and wanted to stop by to say hello.

We agreed to meet outside, in front of the house, and take the dogs for a hike in the snow.

Lamar is a mature dog. I see him as a senior statesman who knows what’s going on in everyone’s mind all the time.

Fozzie is a handsome, brindle pup with a strong presence.

The dogs reacted to Honey with some excitement so we just started walking. After a while, we allowed some sniffie greetings and continued our walk.

Both of Kirsten’s dogs are failed fosters. But she has succeeded at turning them into wonderful dogs.

Because Kirsten has worked so hard with Fozzie in particular, she’s very sensitive to the signals he gives off and tries hard to set him up for success.

And it works. We had a wonderful visit together.

I thought Kirsten might be curious about Fozzie’s impression on a stranger—someone who hasn’t witnessed or worked with his issues and sees him as he is today.

Fozzie Through a Stranger’s Eyes

Fozzie the dog finds a comfy chair.

After checking the place out, Fozzie finds the perfect spot to snooze.

Fozzie is one of the most curious and alert dogs I’ve ever met. If I could observe his actions without seeing him, I’d guess he was a German Shepherd. He has that attentive vibe.

There’s no smell or motion that dog misses.

I can only imagine how hard it must have been to stay ahead of his reactions.

But today, he notices everything. He catalogs it in his mind. He keeps walking.

Fozzie is also a good communicator. I know that by watching Honey.

Honey is always ready to play. But in their greetings, Fozzie told her exactly what he expected from their brief relationship. And Honey got it. I didn’t see her pestering him again for attention like she would with some dogs with more vague communication skills.

When we returned from our walk, Fozzie made himself at home. He was a perfect gentleman.

Maybe Fozzie has issues. But I didn’t see them. I saw a responsive, alert dog with a friendly heart.

Seeing a Person Through Another’s Eyes

I’m pretty critical. I try not to be. But it’s the default switch I always need to be aware of.

If it’s good for dogs to be seen through a stranger’s eyes, it’s also good for people. If it weren’t, I might not be married today.

I met my now-husband as a freshman in college.

He wore strange clothing combinations, like white jeans, white sweat socks, and black dress shoes. He talked a lot. And he followed me around like a lost puppy dog.

Let’s face it. He was a geek. And not the multimillionaire computer programmer kind. He was just weird.

But he had some interesting friends. I knew two other girls who had crushes on him (?!). And I liked his friend Gabe a lot. Gabe is thoughtful and smart. And he liked Mike. So maybe Mike was worth a second look.

Seeing Mike through other people’s eyes opened my mind. And introduced me to my best friend and love of my life.

Seeing Your Dog Through Someone Else’s (Loving) Eyes

I’ve happened into a great community of dog lovers.

The folks I’ve met online care about their dogs. Are responsible pet caregivers. And create stimulating lives for their animals.

Honey the Golden Retriever of Something Wagging This Way Comes says goodbye to Fozzie of Peaceful Dog Blog.

Thank you for lending me your ear massager, Fozzie.

But the flip side of all that responsibility is crushing guilt and self-doubt.

I can’t count the number of posts I’ve read by bloggers wondering if they’re doing all they can for their dogs, worrying about what others think about their dog’s behavior, and stressing over their dog’s state of mind.

If that describes you, maybe it’s time to see your dog through someone else’s eyes. And no, not that traumatized mail carrier who’s terrified of dogs or your mother-in-law who thinks dogs should be seen (preferably in the back yard) and not heard.

What does your dog look like to someone who loves dogs? Who knows who dogs are? And who appreciates their smart and opportunistic ways that make them such companions to people?

Because if you’ve spent the past few months or years managing your dog’s reactions to strangers or other dogs, keeping her from jumping on every person who comes to the door, or teaching a good recall, you have that image of what you started with.

But we just see your wonderful, well-loved dog.

 

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Comments

  1. For me, I always think of that line I read about “Being the person your dog thinks you are” If I could be that person I’d be pretty darn pleased. As for Gizmo, I’ve been lucky in that he’s such a happy guy that most everyone who meets him likes him. So nice to get a chance to meet blogville friends in person…We’ve got a playdate set in February to meet up with one of our blogging friends and know it’s going to be a good time…Happy New Year!

    • Hmm, I worry a little about that saying. I get the strong feeling sometimes that Honey just feels I’m getting in her way. :)

      Happy New Year!

  2. Oh, this is me to a T. What makes it worse is that *I* don’t know “how dogs are” myself, because Silas is my first dog.

    We’ve been going back and forth to see my parents a lot, which is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, they can just take Silas as-is. On the other hand, being amongst strangers brings out the worst in him. As in, things that are objectively bad–eating the trash, for instance. But it’s so sweet to see him with my mom, who is #3 on his “acceptable people” list.

    • If I had been blogging when I got my first dogs, you’d have been horrified. The only way we can learn about dogs is by loving and being with them.

      With Silas, you’ve been thrown in at the deep end of the pool because of the circumstances under which he came to you. It’s like going for a Ph.D. before getting your bachelor’s degree. :)

      But you’re doing so good by him and I’m thrilled to read about your progress together. Having a #3 person to love is huge.

      As for trash eating, it’s a great adaptation to have if you’re lost and alone in the world.

      Of course, I would have gone insane if someone had said the same thing to me when I was living with Agatha and Christie, trash-eaters extraordinaire. :)

  3. Wonderful post! As a shelter volunteer I see many types of dogs. The failed fosters are the saddest…when they are finally adopted and stay adopted you know that the forever person really does understand DOGS!!!! :)

    Linda
    http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com
    http://deltacountyhistoricalsociety.wordpress.com

    ¸.•*¨*•♪♫♫♪HAPPY NEW YEAR ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥

    • Luckily for Lamar and Fozzie, failed foster in their circumstances meant that Kirsten couldn’t bear to let them go to anyone else. They started out as fosters and became her very own. :)

      Hope many wonderful blessings come to you in the New Year.

  4. How awesome that you got to meet Kirsten and her pack! I’ve yet to meet a fellow blogger and am really looking forward to BlogPaws. :-)

    I always learn something when I visit your blog Pamela, I wish I could look at my dogs through someone else’s eyes. Instead I am focused on how snarky they are to the puppy. :-)

    • I felt lucky this year that I got to meet Amy and Rod of Go Pet Friendly, Lori from the Dog Park, and Kristen and Florian. Since traveling is tough without a car, I only hope I can lure a few more bloggers to the beautiful Finger Lakes. :)

      It would be great if someone with a lot of dog experience could help you with the dogs and the puppy. I remember when Honey was a puppy, she always got right into the face of every dog she met.

      We eventually learned to hold her back and then teach her not to approach when a dog was giving signs he didn’t want to be bothered. But it took her a while. If Sampson is responding to the puppy’s moves instead of instigating problems, I think you have less of a problem. Although I know it’s not fun and it worries you a lot.

      Good luck. And hope you have a wonderful new year.

  5. Your post makes me love Mike all the more. (I was already smitten by the cute way he comments here. I’m not sure my other half even knows my web address, though he is very supportive of it.)

    I am definitely my dogs biggest critic. They would be the perfect dogs, if they would just…[insert a million things here]. This post is very timely for me Pamela, thank you for sharing it.

    • Jodi, why did you have to compliment Mike in the comments? Now his head is going to swell and he’ll get a big crush on you. :)

      I sometimes wonder if we listen too much to the opinions of people who don’t really like dogs and that makes us more critical.

      Honey’s greeting style is enthusiastic. But we’ve gotten her to keep four on the floor (for the most part). But some people are overwhelmed just because her butt wiggles like mad and she can’t get close enough. My dad, for instance, would much rather she’d sit still like a statue and let me pet her all day with moving a muscle.

      I find myself worried about her enthusiasm even though that’s one of the things I love the most about her.

      Can’t wait to see what the new year brings from Chez Kolchak and Felix!

  6. And here I was all this time thinking I was the only one who carried all that guilt around. One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to let some of that guilt go. I’d say let it all go, but I want to be realistic.

    • And the last thing we need is to feel guilty about feeling guilty, right? :)

      I think feeling guilty is a side effect of working hard to do the right thing all the time. Maybe it just needs to be tempered with a little love and self-acceptance?

      Blessings to you in the New Year!

  7. One of the blessings of this past month was bringing dogs back from fosters and hearing how they were; like Herman NOT coming back and being adopted, Danny Quinn may have an issue with his eyesight according to the acute observations of his experienced foster mom, and Justus, who dropped weight no matter what Bill did, made me realize he had NEVER been away from home before….I adopted him as a puppy while shy Mami, at the same kennel, came back very socialized to the point I may have her doing some doggy day care this next year.

    Great post for dogs and people – listen to what others and their dogs have to say/act. Impressed with the attention and respect Honey gave to Fozzie’s communications. Wow.

    Happy New Year!

    • Most of us would not want to schedule surgery to be able to see our animals through other people’s eyes. But it sounds like that aspect was really useful for you. You really learned a lot from having the dogs in other homes.

      I’m also very pleased with Honey. She used to have problems hearing “no means no” from other dogs. My little girl is growing up. :)

      Hope 2013 brings you much joy and lots of adoptions. :)

  8. This would be true, mostly with Morgan and Kuster, but in some ways, I feel that Morgan has gotten worse since we got her. No amount of correcting, rewarding, redirecting or hair pulling gets her to cease certain behaviors. They will ebb and flow, sometimes disappearing for months only to return. Kuster’s problem is that he has no manners, but he always seems to pull them out of his boot strap when we meet other people! I would love to hear what other people think of them.

    • People ebb and flow in their moods and behavior too (says the woman married to a mercurial husband). Maybe Morgan just has that kind of personality.

      As for Kuster, you know none of us believe any of the funny stories you say about him. He looks just perfect in the pictures. :)

      Hope 2013 brings you much joy and 365 great photographs.

  9. Great post and you are spot on. It is so annoying to me “people” think they can judge either Kenzo, and maybe more so, Viva, in the blink of an eye. The names they have been called … sigh. It tells me more about the prejudices of the speaker then it does about Kenzo and Viva.
    One of the things that keeps us sane is the dog training club we still join. Not so much to get to the next higher training level, but to be together with other crazy dog people that want to invest their time and love in a dog, and to talk about our dogs, other than those instant verdicts.
    Happy New Year to you, Mike and Honey!

    • I’m so thankful to have learned to realize how much dogs do to fit into our lives. They also suffer and can be afraid or neurotic. But they have to manage it without the power of speech, understanding that comes with reflection, and years of therapy.

      I too am thankful to have the company of dog lovers who understand the high expectations we put on dogs to live in human society and are grateful for their efforts.

      And I’m thankful to “know” Kenzo and Viva through the eyes of someone who loves and appreciates them so much.

      I hope 2013 holds many joyful moments for you and your family.

  10. This is such a great thought, Pamela. As usual you have hit on it perfectly. I tend not to be very critical of others but focus most of those negative feelings on myself. My husband recently said that I need to start seeing myself the way others see me. It goes against inclination in a way. We are told not to care about what others think, to ignore it. But he said perhaps in my case, I should start believing what others say about me, as opposed to thinking everyone is just being nice. Who knows?

    In my dog’s case, I try very hard to be her biggest cheerleader but could probably stand to ramp that up a notch. We are all our puppies have. They deserve the best.

  11. Also? I am so excited you got to meet Fozzie and Kristen! It’s so cool when bloggers get to meet up. It sounds like everyone had a great time!

  12. How fun to meet a fellow blogger! I have an idea for a new blog . .my hubby and I can buy a motorhome and drive around the country meeting pet bloggers!! I LOVE IT!!

    Fozzie looks like a sweetie pie, what a lucky foster fail :)

  13. What a nice post! Thank you Pam! I am just now getting back to blogging after catching up on everything else after our return. We really enjoyed our visit and thank you, Mike, and Honey for your hospitality.

    My heart is warmed by your observations on Fozzie and I am so glad he made a good impression on you! I really got some new insights on him from talking to you (just as Florian got some on postmodern dance from talking to Mike :)) and this post gives me even more. That’s a huge gift! Honey was such a sweet little thing to let him into her home with no complaint and tolerate his stiffness, and you were all so great to welcome us scraggly travelers :)

  14. Pamela…So happy to meet you. I’m coming over from Kristin’s blog. How wonderful you got to meet.