My family lives in a typical suburban neighborhood in Southern California, and our cul de sac is overrun with kids. This Halloween while my 13 year old son Andre took 9 year old Calvin trick or treating, my wife and I got to watch a virtual parade of ghosts and goblins, vampires and witches, superheroes and cartoon characters as they came and went from our front door. But there was something else we noticed and got a big kick out of ? all the dressed up dogs. We were entertained by Labs dressed up as ballerinas, English bulldogs dressed up as NFL players, and Yorkies dressed up like little bandits. The market for doggie Halloween outfits must certainly be booming!
Of course this is all harmless fun, but seeing this pageant of dogs in their cute outfits got me thinking about our powerful need to humanize our dogs. We give them human names, and we put them to sleep on doggie canopy beds. We speak to them in full sentences and paragraphs. We train our children very young to humanize animals by creating cartoon characters of critters that talk, rationalize, live in houses, drive cars…and even defy the laws of gravity like the Roadrunner & Wile E. Coyote. Humans seem to have an innate need to make over our world in our own image. In a metaphorical sense, we continue to "dress up" our dogs as humans, even after Halloween is over.
My clients often say about their dogs, "Oh, he thinks he's a human" when the dog does something "cute," or when he begs scraps from the table, "He wishes he were a person." In my opinion, if animals could indeed "wish" why would on earth would they want to be like us? We're the most unstable, destructive, restless, and lonely species on the planet! In my opinion, it might make more sense for people to wish they were more like dogs.
As a kid growing up around dogs, I fell in love with their grace, dignity and wisdom. They naturally had everything I wanted ? peace, order, joy, sense of purpose. They got up in the morning instinctively knowing what they were here to do and how to enjoy the day. They lived in the moment. All my life, I have learned from them far more than they could be able to learn from me.
Just imagine what our world would be like if all people would learn from their dogs and adopt their best qualitie! There would be no more lying. There would be a lot of integrity in the world and people would mean what they say. People would have gratitude and appreciate life all the time. They'd live in the present and not worry about the future. They wouldn't obsess over the past. They would appreciate the small things and never get tired or bored with the activities that bring them joy. When people faced problems or conflicts, they would find the simplest route to resolving them. They'd have a full range of emotions, but not get stuck in any one of them. They'd move on from trauma much faster, without much lasting damage. Friends would always be loyal, and people would trust their instincts and know a friend from an enemy right away and they would know to keep a safe distance from a volatile person. They would follow the best person for the job, not the one with the most money or biggest ego. An they would never again follow another unstable leader!
Humanizing our dogs is something we do for us, not for them. But the beautiful thing about dogs is that they are drawn to balance like a magnet. Almost every dog has the ability to bounce back from an unbalanced state to a balanced one ? that is what dogs "wish" for! The peace and joy that comes from having a balanced dog is like manna from heaven for a human. Perhaps we should take a breather from our busy lives and really study our dog's innate natures. Then instead of trying to squeeze them into the "costumes" of humans, we will be able to appreciate the amazing creatures they truly are.
And maybe, we can even become better people from their examples.