There are probably as many personality types of dogs as there are personality types of the people who live with them. Which is to say there are either many or just one, depending on how you cut it. Are you a lumper or divider? Maybe we are all just dog-people and our dogs are just dogs. But there are also vast differences between all of us dog-people and between all of our dogs. I like to the think that dogs acquire some of our personality, they mirror us to some extent, or perhaps we acquire dogs that are similar to us. I’m thinking of the movie “Best in Show” and the neurotic couple with their neurotic weimaraner. This movie took a humorous look at the idea that dogs mirror their people or people mirror their dogs.
I am certainly not exempt and I think I have something to learn from Rio’s specific neuroses if I look closely. He is high-strung and excitable. I certainly can be too. Kavir says my spirit animal is a hummingbird. I tend to flit about from one flower to the next and rarely sit down for long. Rio is especially excitable in new and busy environments. He doesn’t handle changes in his routine very well, or at least changes get him worked up. He will start to scratch from the stress. When I take him to the pet store or hardware store to try to help him acclimate and cope with new environments, he needs constant feedback about what to do. He will look to me and if I am not helping him he might start barking at me. In a high stress situation, he does best with lots of cues to follow and a high rate of reinforcement. With these things in place he can thrive and even enjoy himself. He absolutely loves to work and delights in the tasks I give him. But he is easily overwhelmed if it is not clear what he should do next.
Many of these thing apply to me as well. Even if I go to a new coffee shop I will be stressed out by the new setup of the counter. A moment of panic ensues. Where I go to order?! The menu is new, I can’t decide what I want. It annoys Kavir to no end. He has pointed out that I often freeze in new environments especially if it is really busy with lots of people and noise and stuff going on all about. Sometimes I just want to get out of there. I feel you Rio. I guess I can empathize with the poor creature when I put him into some situation with newness and noise. I can barely handle it either. The funny thing is that having Rio gives me something to focus my attention on which calms me down. I have the responsibility of providing instructions and security for my poor dog so I have to keep it together too.
Rio and I both love to have fun. He is a joy to come home to. I love our training sessions as much as he does. I enjoy our games of Frisbee and tug as well. Rio is an endless source of joy.
Yet at home in our comfortable and familiar environment with our loved and familiar people Rio and I can fully relax. He tends to pass out on his bed when Kavir and I are cooking in the kitchen. He might occasionally open an eye to see if we might hand out anything tasty or let him lick the butter wrapper, but mostly he just chills there, contentedly.
I was meditating on my cushion in the the corner of the bedroom this morning. I had finished and opened my eyes when Kavir walked in. Rio was lying on the rug by the bed. “He doesn’t bother you while you’re doing your meditation?” Kavir asked. “Nope, he usually just lies down on the rug next to me or on his bed in the corner, he never even tries to lick my ears,” I replied. It is kind of crazy. Rio loves to lick our ears any chance he gets. Somehow he knows this is not the time for his shenanigans though. He sweetly waits for me to finish and rise. Even now as I type, he is splayed out on the floor right behind me. He just waits. Such patience, Rio. We mirror each other’s trials and moods and always there is more to learn just by paying attention to the dogs in our lives.