spirit flows thru -- Alison Rittger's spiritual reflections on finding the holy in the daily
PictureDog with toy on rug / Alison R.
I’m experiencing some unexpected fallout from the first class of the SPCA course on Small Dog Basics.  Dog, what dog? Foxibeau was my friend, a perfect companion, thoughtful, intuitive, attuned to me, a super listener. Sure, he had some unpleasant habits when we strolled the streets, but I overlooked them and never kissed him on the mouth. When he raised his voice at other animals or lunged at strangers, I attributed his behavior to fear or protective instincts.

The gist of the first SPCA class session, a session we two-leggeds attended by ourselves, was that dogs are animals. We were told that our beloved creatures don’t think as we do and don’t know English, or any language for that matter. In fact, their behaviors are entirely about pleasure in whatever shape that might be. Treats, toys, food, walks – these are the kinds of outcomes dogs expect. They will learn words if the consequences result in obtaining any of the above coveted.

Some two-leggeds in the class seemed to know this already. Probably because their newest creature isn’t their first, and they have experience or have taken this course before. I take the class wide-eyed with nothing much to go on, not ever having actually chosen or bonded with a canine companion of my own choosing.

When my sons were young, they would introduce various rescued creatures into the household, and I would not have a voice in whether or not the animal became a family member. Once, when we already hosted Onyx, a dog so big he could sit on the couch from a standing position, Annie came to stay. Shortly, she birthed seven puppies that ate their way through cardboard and cushions. Eventually, friends of my sons gave them fine homes.

On another occasion, a son brought home a pitbull named Susie Creamcheese. That dog roamed the backyard for some period of time. If this all sounds vague, it is. I must have been a pushover mom not to have been consulted about our animal borders. Later, Otto and Leeloo, my oldest son’s pitbulls were dear to me, however, they did live downstairs when I lived upstairs.

But Foxibeau! I chose him! Saw him in a cage at Animal Control, liked the looks of him and picked him out as the one! Doubtlessly, I have imputed to him kindness, sincerity, and other positive human characteristics. I have appreciated his noncritical gaze, his accepting silences, and his willingness to wait in a comfy crate when I have to leave the house – something I do less often than I once did. I have passed on social events to cuddle with Foxie of an evening and watch multiple seasons of “Inspector Foyle” on my iPad.

Signing up for the SPCA class means I acknowledge my new best friend is actually an animal for which I am now responsible. Once he is socialized, others will like him as much as I do. And what a bonus it will be if this training socializes me so well that other two-leggeds like me as much as Foxie already seems to.

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