Raising a puppy teaches you a lot about yourself.
I am learning (or being reminded of the fact) that I am a creature of instinct: I have strong ones and I want to rely on them, even when logic would dictate I ignore them; and I get quite emotional when I behave in contradiction to my desire. Seeing any living creature suffer bothers me immensely.
Crating my dog in a small cage while I’m at work for his comfort and protection and training purposes conflicts with my desire to let him run free and be comfy, even though I know he may mess up the house, defecate and urinate all over and maybe even chew things he shouldn’t, not to mention the possibility that he may get stuck somewhere, given his diminutive size and curiosity.
Forcing my dog to stay outside in the cold and dark, just beyond the threshold of the door into the light and warmth, until he acquiesces to my commands to sit and stay, gnaws at my gut as I struggle not to scoop him up and hold him and warm him and beg his forgiveness; even though I know he must learn to obey for his own safety and our eventual ability to take him places and let him off the leash in the yard.
Placing him back in his crate at night while we sleep, pains me, as I want to let him lie between us and snuggle with us as part of the family, even though I know he won’t be able to until we can be sure he will not wander off and make indoor messes and accidents in or out of the bed.
I knew, going into adopting a puppy, it would take time to train him and it would require me to be more of a disciplinarian. I understand that as a dog, he speaks a different language and understands behavior and body language in a different way than humans do, so I have to assert myself in a way he will understand and learn to obey.
Readjusting how I think and react to Harvey makes me realize that I have been learning to change my behavior in my human relationships, too. For the majority of my life I was a diehard people pleaser, avoiding conflict at all costs and doing anything I could do to foster, nurture and maintain relationships with everyone and anyone. Even when my brain would recognize I was being mistreated, ignored, taken for granted, harmed or abused, my heart and instincts would impel me to try harder to be liked and wanted, to overlook the negative and try to hold onto as many people in my life as I could, at all costs, no matter what they said or did. Learning to accept the discomfort and pain of letting go and severing ties with people who harm me, emotionally, and poison my life and happiness, has been a slow and difficult process, and the negative emotions that come with it – hurt, anger, sorrow, confusion and fear – are all components of learning, growing and maturing. Being able to ask and expect something in return from the people I have invested time and energy into, as I have learned, is not a sign of weakness but strength. I understand and accept that not all relationships are meant to be or are healthy for me. It is evidence that I am learning to value myself, my own wants and needs, as strongly as I value and respect others’, as well as devote my time and energy into nurturing the relationships with people who have shown the same efforts and interest in me and my well-being.
SO, I will continue to forego my compassionate human being impulses and strive to be a good dog owner. I will fight my instincts to smother my puppy with love and pander to him, knowing if I do I will be unable to avoid the harmful effects that approach will have, in the future. I will remind myself to do the right things in the right way so that I will ultimately strengthen our bond and relationship when all is said and done…no matter how much it conflicts with my natural instincts to do so. And maybe in the process of trying to teach my puppy to be a stronger and better behaved pet, I will learn how to be a stronger and better behaved human as well.