The politics of barking – Dog Abby
Last year, I fell in love with a great guy. We are flying out to his parents’ house this summer. It will be my first time meeting them, and I want to leave a good impression. The challenge is, their political views are almost the exact opposite of mine, and they have been known to talk about them a lot. I don’t want to get into a debate with them right off the bat; I want to get us to know each other as people. What do you suggest?
Nervous in Nebraska
When I was a puppy, mom taught me all kinds of things. Some she taught me for my own safety, like sit and stay and how to not pull on the leash. She taught me to wait and come and how to obey both vocal and sign language commands. She was proud of me, too, because I also learned to heal and wait when not on the leash at all. Other tricks she taught me were to be nice to people, especially kids. She taught me to shake paws and say, “please” and “thank you” in several languages. (Although, most humans say it just sounds like, “woof” because of my accent.) She even taught me fun things to make people laugh, like roll over, dive into water, bow, and other tricks. I get really excited when meeting new people, and I want to show them all of the things I know. The hardest thing mom has ever had to try to teach me (I am a pretty old doggy, and she is still working on it) is when to be quiet.
When I meet new people, most are nice to me, which makes me happy. Sometimes when I am happy, I want to show them all of my tricks at once, and my barking — even if I am just saying “please” or “hello” — sometimes scares them away. Mom tells me to use my inside voice. Other times, mom tells me to be quiet altogether.
The thing is, when I am in a new situation with new people, I learn a lot by just listening. I also make a good impression on them. One time I learned that the people we were visiting had kids that really liked dogs, but one of the kids could not hear. I got to show off my sign language skills and we became best friends. If I had been the one “talking” the whole time, I never would have learned something new.
Another time, we were at the park and a lady said that her son was terrified of dogs and we had to leave. Mom did not think this was fair, and she told the lady so. She asked why her son was so afraid of dogs and the lady said that her son was bitten by a dog when he was young. Mom was nice to the lady and told her that not all dogs bite, in fact, more people bite than dogs do. They talked for a while and the lady no longer wanted us to leave. Mom had told me to be little, so I had lain down flat in the grass and stayed there the entire time. Mom showed the lady that she could stick her hand in my mouth and I would not even try to bite. The lady thought for a moment, then asked her son, who had crept up behind her, if he wanted to touch me. The brave little boy nodded and I let him pat me on the head. We both learned that just because you believe something, does not mean it is true. Sometimes, if you listen to a different opinion and allow some grace, you will learn something wonderful. That little boy is still afraid of most dogs, but not all, and certainly not me. That was a big step!
You may have very different ideas about things, but you will never learn about anything at all if you are the one talking. Sometimes, being the one listening makes you the stronger one. It also shows that you respect others. If you disagree with someone, it is often better to ask yourself why, and then ask the others questions, too, so that you may both learn more. This can only happen if you are calm and quiet. If you are upset and loud, it will only sound like, “WOOF” to the rest.