“I couldn’t do no yodelin’, so I turned to howlin’. And it’s done me just fine.”
~ Howlin’ Wolf
In the distance, a siren sounds. Your Dog, sleeping peacefully on the couch, awakens, and with ears pricked, begins to howl. Is she answering the “call of the wild”? Is her “inner Wolf” trying to break free?
Wolves, Coyotes and Dogs howl as a means of communicating. It’s their way of saying, “I know you are there, and I am here.” Although there is no complete agreement among scientists as to specifically “why” these beings howl, it is generally agreed that it is a way of connecting. It is also a great way for us to connect with our Dogs, too.
Now, I am not suggesting that we get on all fours and begin baying at the moon with our Dogs, although I have done that and it is a great way to join them and experience a moment together from their perspective. Actually, I am merely using the word HOWL as an acronym to describe a way of being with our dogs on a day-to-day, moment-by-moment basis that will bring us closer together and deepen our friendship.
H.O.W.L. stands for:
Openness and acceptance
“There is a greater need to extinguish arrogance than a blazing fire.”
Next time we are with our Dogs, let us take a step back and trust them that they know how to just be. We would be well served if we are humble and allow these amazing creatures to be themselves. As a species, we Humans tend be arrogant. I realize that may put some of you off, but I believe that’s one of our most profound weaknesses. We always think we know best, and that’s especially true when it comes to our Dogs. Modern humans have been around for approximately 200,000 years. Wolves, which are virtually genetically the same as Dogs have been around for over 2 million years. They know very well how to be Dogs and don’t always need our help. Sometimes when we think “we know better”, we can make things worse.
~”Kindly let me help you or you’ll drown” said the monkey putting the fish safely up a tree.~
Openness and Acceptance:
“Let in all the guests. You never know what gifts they may bring.”
It’s easy to be critical of our Dogs, and to reject aspects of their behavior and appearance. We amputate their tails, slice off part of their ears (fondly known as “cropping”), gasp when they hump, get offended when they jump up on us, scold them for barking, all of which is harmless, normal dog behavior. This creates a chasm between us that is hard to mend. If we are to say that we “love Dogs”, then we have to love them as Dogs, and be open to all the qualities that make them who they are. Otherwise, our love for them becomes self-serving and conditional. In that way, we only have what Rabbi Twerski calls “fish-love” for dogs, and don’t truly love them at all. I am not suggesting that we become completely passive and permissive, of course we deserve as much respect as we give them, but we must be more open to accepting our Dogs for who they are, not just what we want them to be.
“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
When was the last time you saw your dog? I don’t mean looking at her as she’s lying on the couch or walking in the yard, I mean really seeing her? It’s easy to forget at times, and I am also very guilty of this, that the Dog we share our lives with with is a miraculous, extraordinary and wondrous creature. When we first meet our Dogs we are enamored with them. We spend a lot of time being present with them and noticing everything they do. As time passes, the “honeymoon” phase wears off and there is a tendency to take them for granted. The Dog that we were once so infatuated with has not changed, however we seem to have drifted into a place of indifference and routine. To change this, we can adopt what is know in Zen as “Beginner’s Mind”. This is the mind of a child, where everything, even the mundane and routine, is fresh and new. It is being in a state of mindfulness where we see through the preconceived ideas about our dogs and experience their true essence. By spending just a few moments a day in the present moment with your dog and appreciating them as if for the first time, you will reconnect and bring back that experience of awe when you’re together. It helps you increase your level of empathy and understanding with your dog. I do this once a day with Shared Mindfulness. Our Dogs are with us for only a brief time, so why not remind ourselves every day that this amazing creature is only an arm’s reach away.
“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.”
~ Robert A. Heinlein
The more our Dogs feel loved and secure, the deeper our friendship will be. Attachment theory (Bowlby, Ainsworth, Main) shows that secure attachment creates positive changes in the brain that enhances all aspects of life. There is no better gift to give our Dogs than this gift of unconditional love, and that love will be reciprocated a hundred fold. Everything we do for and with our dogs must be done with an open and loving heart. As I mentioned earlier, our love shouldn’t be self-serving. We can show our love by being completely present with them, guiding them when they need our help, and even giving them space and freedom to just be themselves. Our friendship with our Dogs is founded in this love, and it needs to be cultivated daily. When we use compassion and loving kindness as our guide, we will never become lost.
So, the next time your Dog has a “wilderness moment” and begins to howl, maybe you should consider getting down on all fours with her and joining in. You may find you and her are connected in perfect harmony.