Sunday, April 01, 2007

Picking Up Strays

Yesterday, a little black and white beagle showed up and started hanging around at our house. He’s a friendly little dog, and we liked him from the start. He rolled over onto his back, showing us his belly, and, of course, we obliged to give him a belly rub. Since we were outside for a big part of the day, he stayed around, alternating between following us around as we worked and taking naps in the shade. Because he was wearing a collar with a tag, we figured out pretty quickly that he belongs to one of the neighbors, so I decided to walk him back home. However, he didn’t want to stay, and about five minutes after I got back to my house, he showed up again. So I called and left the neighbors a message, thinking they’d come get their dog after they got home. But they didn’t. He ended up spending the night on our front porch. We figure he’ll go home eventually, but for now, we have a new little companion.

The problem is that our dogs do not like this situation at all. At his first chance, one of our Jack Russell Terriers, Pete, took out after this little dog and left a mark on his face. Of course, we punished him, but he is still very upset that this little dog is here. This morning he took out after the beagle again, so we ended up trying to be dog whisperers and making him be friendly. After a few minutes, our dog seemed to calm down, the two dogs enjoyed a wary truce. We’ll see how long this lasts.

Our dogs are very territorial and protective, and if you know Jack Russell Terriers, you know that they’re very jealous little dogs, and our dog Pete is jealous of even the other two dogs in our house. So he’s especially jealous when a strange dog comes around and we’re friendly with it.

People are like that too. When we have a circle of friends, and a new person tries to come into that circle, we sometimes are jealous and don’t want to be hospitable. We’ll even do what we can to let that person know that he or she is not welcome, sometimes resorting not necessarily to violence, but to meanness and spite. We don’t want to get to know that person because doing so means that the relationships we share with our circle of friends that we have become so comfortable with will be different. If a new person comes in, those relationships might change; we might lose our place in the circle. Our friends might decide that they like spending time with the new person rather than us. We don’t consider that we might end up having a great relationship with the new person. Instead, we fear the changes that inevitably will take place, even if the changes might be good ones. Like dogs, we become territorial, allowing our insecurities to turn us into snarling animals instead of the loving creatures that we are called to be. Fear and insecurity are terrible emotions that we would do well to overcome if we want to be better humans than our dogs are.


jettybetty said...

So true--not smart of us--but I know I've done it!

Ayatollah Mugsy said...

I am available to mediate the dispute between Pete and the newcomer.

JMG said...

Thank you Mugsy, but it has all been worked out. The little dog's human came and got him. Apparently the family just got him, and he hasn't yet learned where he belongs.