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?
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 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.
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.