Many years ago, when I was in undergraduate school, I decided to breed my Labrador Retriever. She had a beautiful litter of ten puppies. It was a delightful experience and she loved being a mamma. I also remember the experience that I had when people would come to buy a puppy. They would pick up the puppy, look at it closely, watch it walk around and then make the darnedest comments.
One morning, a lady called to say she wanted to see the puppies and I gathered them together for her to look at them. I was watching the puppies while I waited for her and I noticed that one puppy was much more active than the others. He would climb all over the other ones, bite at the other’s tails and cause all sorts of problems for the others.
About the time the lady arrived, I noticed that the other puppies had awakened and were moving about while the one puppy that had been so active was now sleeping. She looked at the litter, held each one and then picked the puppy that had been so active before she arrived. She said, “I want a dog that is easy going and this puppy seems to be the one much more relaxed than the others.”
Is there any way that we can predict what the new puppy or kitten’s personality is going to be like? Not likely. For those of us who have had pets for many years, we can all agree that each one of our pets had a unique personality, good or bad.
Years ago, I had a client that had a wonderful Sharpei dog. He was one of the friendliest Sharpei dogs that I ever met. He lived a long life and died well into his senior years. A few months later, she bought a new Sharpei puppy and when he grew up, he was one of the scariest dogs I have known. He would just as soon bite you as scratch his ear.
She horribly surprised and upset about this radical difference in personality. She begged me to give her something that would change her new dog’s personality into her old dog’s personality. I told her that that was not going to happen.
If we can’t predict what our new pet’s personality is going to be, and if we are looking for a pet with a specific personality, what are we going to do? Maybe, adopt or purchase an adult dog whose personality has likely been established? That might work. I suspect that even that situation might lead to some unexpected surprises.
Why do pets, like people, have different personalities? The standard answer is because that is what makes the world go around. I personally believe that the answer is a bit deeper.
I like to use other traditional approaches to individual health to help me understand the benefits of different personalities. In Ayurveda medicine, individuals are divided into three groups, called Doshas. Each Dosha describes individual personalities, health issues, and do on. In Chinese medicine, individuals are divided into five categories called the Five Element System.
The five elements are fire, earth, metal, water and wood. Every human and animal will fall into one of these elements. Each element perfectly describes the personality type, health implications, seasonal influences and many others. Fire elements are happy go lucky Doodle that loves to be the center of attention. Earth personalities are those Golden Retrievers that never get upset even if the child pulls its ears. Metal element individuals are the Border Collie that is too smart for his own britches. The water element is the brood mare that lives to have foals. The wood element is the Siamese cat that swats and spits at other cats if she doesn’t get her way.
It is not hard to see that the world needs each one of these to function. You don’t want your accountant (metal) leading your army and you wouldn’t want your general (wood) doing your taxes. It just won’t work, no matter how hard you try. You can’t make a General Patton into a Mother Theresa.
So, what happens if you desire an easy going earth element and end up with a hyperactive fire element? You make the best of the situation. That might not be what you want to hear and I am sure that is why a lot of pets end up at the humane society, but there is a reason why it happened. Hmmm?
Take a moment and look back at all of the pets that YOU had, those that were YOUR pet. They likely all had different personalities and you likely appreciated each one of those at the time that you had them.
I had an old colleague of mine that said, “You can chronicle your life with your pets.” This was a very mindful statement.
Like I wrote in my book, Whole-Pet Healing, we don’t adopt pets, they adopt us. They come into our lives to help us and in doing so, provide an opportunity to learn about ourselves. Each pet’s personality reflects something that you need at that time in your life. Maybe you just went through a relationship breakup and needed something to love you and support you. Perhaps you were struggling with some emotional problems and you needed an energetic pet to get you out and about. Maybe your pet has some destructive behavior issues that reflect some internal issues that you have been keeping inside. I promise you, there were no mistakes made when the pet came into your life.
Each personality has a strength and a weakness. When the individual is in balance; body, mind, spirit, then it will display its strengths and benefit the whole. When the individual is out of balance, this will not happen and the weakness will exhibit itself with emotional, behavioral and physical abnormalities. It is our job to keep our pet in balance so that it will thrive with its individual personality and help us help ourselves.