May 10 / Rebecca Hanlon

Is it ok to Love a Dog as Much as a Human?

I have often been berated through my life for loving my dogs as much as I do. I have been made to feel silly when I panic if they are hurt. Not given nearly as much empathy over losing a dog as I have when I’ve lost a person in my life. Been made to feel stupid when I put their needs before my own.
I get it, not all people have been lucky enough to have the connection I’ve had with dogs in my life. And actually I’m ok with people not getting it. If they haven’t felt that connection then I just hope one day they do. But I will never apologise for panicking when my dog is poorly. I will never apologise for grieving as much over a dog as I do a person. I will never apologise for not being able to go to a social event because I need to stay home with my dogs.
I will never apologise for drawing up a chair for a guest because my dog is comfortable on the sofa. I will never apologise for loving my dogs. I chose to bring them into my life, they had no choice! So I will be the best person I can be for them.

We appear to be a species obsessed with behaviour, it’s my job to observe behaviours, but are we missing something? How often do we comment on other animals behaviour? Did you see how ‘friend’ was behaving today? she was so rude. Did you see how that child was behaving today? Screaming and shouting like that, it wouldn’t behave like that if he were mine. Did you see that dog barking and ragging on the lead? My dogs are not badly behaved like that!
Could we ask different questions? I wonder if our friend was worried, stressed or sad about something today? I wonder if that child was feeling hurt, scared or upset about something? I wonder if that dog was feeling frightened, was in pain or frustrated about something? By focusing on just the behaviour we miss one of the most fundamental elements of being alive, having feelings and emotions. Having the ability to empathise, care and make a difference.

We appear to be a species obsessed with behaviour

We start to label people, children and dogs with words like, naughty and bad. By asking the question why is an animal behaving this way? By looking at the emotion driving the behaviour we can be so much more productive. We can Start managing situations to prevent feelings of upset, frustration and fear. We can start supporting and and changing emotional responses.

So instead of saying ‘look what they are doing’ let’s ask ‘why are they doing?’