How Dogs Win Friends and Change Attitudes

Reader Contribution by Jamie Cearley and Phd
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Most people choose their dog, Sadie chose me. You might say she converted me. Sadie left this world last week, but her impact on my life will forever remain. In honor of her life I’m posting this story I wrote about how she came to be ours several years ago. May her story help make you a better person too so that her positive influence will live on.

Sadie’s story:

My husband and I recently moved to a farm. It didn’t take long for farm stereotypes like, “all farms have a dog,” to encroach. Being a clean person, my dog would not: shed, bark, dig, chew, absolutely not jump, and, of course, be intelligent. A stuffed Chinese breed; perfect. While enjoying the lack of responsibility my lifeless breed offered, a large hairy thing began hanging around. “If we ignore it and don’t feed it, it will go away,” I declared.

While I maintained strict control over “don’t feed it,” the “ignore it” part of my plan quickly began to falter. My first indication came when one of our horse boarders darted around the corner hollering, “Come on, Sadie!”

“You named it?” I cried, as the shaggy beast came galloping. Each person who encountered her noted what a “good” dog she was, pointing out her virtues, “she doesn’t jump, dig, chew, or carry things off; she chases off other stray dogs, she doesn’t even make nose prints on the windows, and, besides that, she is smart.” These people had somehow secretly obtained a copy of my list and were systematically checking off items. I was losing ground fast.

The creature persisted with her good behavior, charming everyone. One day, I was on the couch when the animal came on the porch and sat. There we were, separated by a thin piece of glass. She began whimpering softly. I would acknowledge her, she would lick her chops and whimper some more. I surrendered the second part of my plan, called my husband, and told him to pick up some dog food.

“Oh, and don’t forget a brush,” I said; after all, if we were going to have the beast around she had better look up to specs. Sadie would be ours.

In the ensuing days I thought about how Sadie had overcome my initial distaste for her. Many of the negatives on my list for the ideal dog were external and of no true consequence. However, I also had behavioral issues that were contributing to my avoidance. It had been Sadie’s good behavior that had won my heart, enabling me to see beyond the external.

Each of us eventually encounters someone whose initial response to us is aversion. Usually this is based upon a seemingly endless stream of peripheral characteristics of no real importance: gender, economic status, birthplace, age, weight, or ethnicity to name a few.

However, could it be that on some level our behavior is offensive as well? Could we help people overcome their distaste for our external characteristics? What if we stopped jumping on people? What if we were persistent in our kindness rather than chewing and digging at their character? Would we win people’s hearts? What if we were respectful of others’ property rather than leaving our prints on their stuff? What if we sought to protect others? Would we make more friends? Would they see us as we are?

Like Sadie, we would be smart to try.

Would you like to read more stories like this? Please visit my website for more Mental Morsels with Dr. Cearley. Learning life principles from the farm.

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