During my father and his father’s generation, it was common that they kept the same name for each subsequent dog that they had. At that time, it was usually the father that initiated getting a dog and usually that dog had a purpose. It might be a hunting dog, herding dog or just a family protector.
The father would name it some simple name like Max or Buddy, simple and firm. When the dog died and the father picked out another dog, he would name the new dog the same as the previous dog. I remember hearing the old folks talk about Max 1 and Max 2. Fortunately, we don’t see this any longer. Probably because the women got involved and put a stop to that.
If I were to use one name for my dogs, it would be Joy. What a representative name for a dog. Think about the dogs that you have had. You will likely feel something in your heart area that makes you smile. This is your Joy. But, if you think a bit more about your dogs, you will recognize that they expressed Joy at all times.
This might be difficult for our minds to wrap around, but it is true. We might want to think of a happy, playful dog as being joyful and a dog that might be fearful or aggressive as not. We would be incorrect. A dog is joyful when it is expressing itself without resistance.
Every dog has an individual personality and we are the ones who label these personalities based on our bias or judgment. I have seen many dogs brought to me in hopes of changing their personalities to fit the caretaker’s desire. Of course, we don’t want dogs to develop bad habits, but this is about training and not about changing personalities. If a lady comes in with an alpha personality German Shepherd and wants him to be like her old Golden Retriever who was a couch potato, it is not going to happen. I would often say, “You can’t turn General Patten into Mother Theresa.”
When a dog is doing its thing, which it usually is, it is joyful. It is expressing its true self. We have two dogs. The younger dog is full of energy and playfulness. When we go to the park, she is running and playing all the time. She loves to chase the birds. I will watch her off in the distance chasing some birds and I can feel her joy. This morning, she came back to me, panting after a long chase. I said to her, “You know, you will never catch one of those birds.” She looked up at me and I felt her say, “Dad. It is not about catching a bird. It is about chasing the birds.” A lesson learned.
Our older dog, Chloe, keeps her head to the ground. She likes to chase the critters that run; squirrels, marmots, neighbors cats. We were always trying to make her stop as we were afraid that she would catch one and harm it.
One winter day, we took her on a walk along the river. She saw a ground squirrel and took off after it. The little fellow ran under a rock to hide. She immediately started digging for it. She had done this many times but we would keep walking and in a short time, she would abandon her idea of catching the critter and come running.
This day was different. We had walked for some time and noticed that Chloe had not followed. We were puzzled. In a few minutes, she came running along the trail. This time she had something in her mouth. We panicked. Surely, she had dug up the squirrel and killed it. As she got closer, we noticed something strange. She was soaking wet.
When she got to us, we realized that she had dug up the squirrel, caught it, took it and herself to the river for a bath and brought the clean, freezing and frightened squirrel to us as a gift. She laid it down at our feet and we picked up the little guy, took it back to the car and warmed it until it was alive and frisky again. We let it go back, safely into the woods. Chloe was just expressing her joy, doing her thing. It was only when we tried to interfere that she didn’t get to show us what she was trying to do.
Unfortunately, we humans don’t take after our pets in this way. We have judged ourselves according to society’s standards. On a subconscious level, we have an image in our mind that we try to live up to. We should look like this, behave like this, perform like this and so on. In doing this, we resist the flow of life moving through us and resist it in hopes to change ourselves to fit society’s standard.
Resistance to the normal, expression of ourselves is what causes suffering. We shame ourselves when we have times that we express ourselves in a manner that we don’t accept for ourselves. In doing this, we lose the Joy that is inside us and we suffer. We can’t all be Mother Theresa. We weren’t supposed to be. Imagine how boring life would be if everyone was like her.
Be yourself. Love yourself, no matter who and what you are. Love your anger when it comes out. Laugh at it and know that it is not you, but an emotion that pops out at times and often serves you well. Be like your pet and we will call you, Joy.