I gradually tightened my grip on the leash even as I shortened it, as is my habit when my grand-puppy, Oz and I, are about to encounter other canines or humans on our walks.
Oz’s toddler-like excitement means he just about jumps out of his skin when we meet new people during a walk so more support from me encourages him to “manage” his energy.
The human and canines encountered during the walk in question was a woman walking two large, clearly older dogs across the street.
The two aged dogs weren’t as energetic and jumpy as Oz but they were protective and territorial enough to let out a few low barks, gravelly and deep like the cough of a life-long smoker, when they finally noticed Oz’s tail-wagging anticipation of their mutual acknowledgment.
Oz was not at all deterred by their gruff greeting and tried everything to convince me to let him cross the street and so he could play with his new friends. His gregarious reaction to this situation was completely expected. I could not say as much for the woman across the street.
She yanked very hard on the two leashes and then bent down close to the two dogs with her forefinger extended angrily only inches from their snouts as she hissed “Stop barking! You should be ashamed of yourselves!”
Is there even one part of this exclamation that makes any sense?
- Expect a dog to not bark?
- Especially when encountering a new potential friend or foe?
- And then to add a level of shame on top of that?
- Expecting that a dog should feel shame about doing something it is born to do?
Is it any different when we have unrealistic expectations for ourselves?
Have you ever expressed the necessity of shame to yourself when you’ve done something you consider to be shameful? Was it really shameful? Or just human?
And how helpful was it? Seriously?
Humans doing human things. Canines doing canine things. Brash things. Loving things. Unconscious things. Encouraging things. Cold-hearted things. Selfless things. Courageous things. Loving things.
Ram Dass says,
“We’re all just walking each other home”.
Keep walking each other home while noticing the tendency for shaming yourself when shame may not be warranted. Walk on. With a huge dose of self-love much needed now.