I was just looking at a Facebook group that I belong to and noticed that nearly every person’s photo had a dog in it.  Sometimes the person and the dog, sometimes just a dog or two.  Occasionally a child.  That got me to wondering about the way we choose to represent ourselves to the world and what that says about us.  I’m really curious about the folks that only have dogs, nothing of their own image.  Since most of my “dog friends” are female and middle aged plus it might be that we just don’t care for the way we look.  Fair enough.  

But I think it goes deeper.  We are not dog owners.  We are DOG PEOPLE.  There’s a huge difference.  A dog owner has a pet or two who may be well-loved and cared for, but probably lives on the edges of the person’s life.  A DOG PERSON has multiple pets, sometimes a pack that borders on unmanageable.  But those dogs are at the center of the person’s world.  They rank right up there with family, friends, and work.  Anyone who is not a DOG PERSON likely thinks we are extreme.  Honestly, many times we teeter on the edge.

Our love for our dogs is not limited by reason or logic.  It is never “just a dog”.  Most of us understand that our dogs are not our children and that our relationships differ from those with other humans.  Most, not all.  Our dogs are our companions.  They are with us 24/7 if we want them to be.  If it’s their choice they would spend all their time with us.  Some of us replace human companionship with canine companionship and feel we are getting the better deal.  Humans are difficult.  Relationships are complicated.  But dogs are simple.  They “say” what they mean.  They don’t lie or deceive us in any way.  Our relationships with our dogs will likely last far beyond many of our human relationships.  They are a constant for us.

Many of us participate in training and competitions with our dogs.  Again, some teeter on the edge in this area.  For some, winning at competitions is absolutely everything.  In fact, they make a living based on doing just that over and over and over.  There’s nothing wrong with doing what you love, as long as it doesn’t hurt your canine partner in the process.  But when your dog becomes the vehicle for your self-worth that’s a bit unhealthy and usually not good for the dog.  When you lose perspective on just what role the dog should play in how you feel about yourself, that’s a problem.  We’re starting to see more and more aging agility dogs running with numerous physical issues.  Canine chiropractors, massage therapists, and physical therapists are making a lot of money these days.  Why?  The person will tell you that the dog “loves it”.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But the human member of the team should be care enough to do what’s right for the dog, not what’s the most fun or rewarding at the moment.  It’s hard to have perspective when you are in this situation.  

I know someone who gave up agility because her young dog just didn’t love it.  She had been very successful with several other dogs, but this one was clearly not enthralled.  She has gone on to explore other types of activities with this dog.  Listening to the dog rather than insisting that he fulfill the role she wanted has likely opened up interesting new worlds for both of them.  I really admire that.  

DOG PEOPLE usually have high expectations for their dogs.  Sometimes I have to step back and admire what we have already accomplished.  I think “the normal pet owner would be totally amazed at how much this dog can do”.  We know that the mental and physical potential in our dogs is much higher than most people realize.  And we tend to push the envelope.  We want more, better, and faster.  We whine about an off course, a missed weave entry, or poor heeling.  The fact that our dogs do it at all is stunning to me, especially because we are often less than clear in our training.  We focus on the failures or the mistakes rather than appreciate how much our dogs do right.  

So what does this picture say about me?  Am I my dog?