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Don't Surround Yourself With Yourself

This is my worried pup, my friend and companion for nine years, until she passed away last January:

She was badly abused when she was in her first years, and as a consequence, walked with a limp, and had no friends other than humans. The dog rescue owner tried to get her to socialize with other dogs, but she spent her entire time after being rescued in a box, cowering and trembling at the noise of the other dogs.

But one day, she finally overcame her fear. With anger. She learned to lash out at the other dogs, tear their throats, and beat them into submission. Somewhere along the line, she never learned to recognize the moment, so important to the social hierarchy of wolves, that you have defeated your enemy. She took on all dogs, from terriers to mastiffs and injured them and was injured in return, and would not stop until she was forcibly restrained and removed from the presence of the other dog.

The rescue owner believes this is because her previous owner took her from her mother too early and put her in a situation where other badly socialized dogs were encouraged to attack her. Whatever the reason, we took her on because we didn't want more than one dog and we worked at home, so we didn't need to worry about her getting out and attacking other dogs, and we could kennel her herself, or find somebody to watch over her if we were away.

In the picture above, I think it's pretty clear to make out the worry on her face. She's got her ears up and her eyes pensive (even though she's blind at this point) because there's a dog barking in the distance, and she's preparing for an encounter. Most of all, she's just plain anxious. Anxiety ruled her life.

This is a 10 Litre food-grade plastic bucket:

On the rescue farm, there were a lot of these about, and horse buckets, and things like that. Horse buckets, she loved to eat. She would sit down with one and bite off a tiny bit, swallow it, and move on to the next. As far as we can understand it, it was because the chunks made the butterflies in her belly go away. It was a sort of destructive self-medication. But, as the rescue person said "she passes them well, so it's not much to worry about". We had to keep soft plastic things away from her when she moved in with us.

But the other habit she developed out of her anxiety was to run around the paddock with one of these food-grade buckets on her head, barking at the top of her voice. Whenever she saw a bucket free, she'd tip it over her head and run like a mad thing barking barking barking. She did this compulsively until the buckets were taken away. After a while of owning her, we discovered that she was slightly deaf in one ear. I suspect this was the ear that was deepest in the bucket.

So why did she do it?

Well, the way I see, when she did that, she couldn't see any other dogs and her voice was so loud it could drown out all the others. There was a comfort for her in that, to be affirmed that her bark was the loudest and the strongest and could conquer all the others. At that time in her life, she needed that kind of assurance.

She was the closest thing I've ever had to a child, and I like to think that she taught me a lot. In this case, she taught me about anxiety, anger, and social media. I try to remember that no matter how I feel I'm right in some matter of opinion, when I get a visceral reaction to the stupid, wilfully-ignorant, violent bullshit that I'm reading... the reaction of surrounding myself with my own opinions, through re-posting and re-tweeting of people who agree with me, and by artificially amplifying my own opinions.

This has been a particularly bad month for that, because the Israel/Palestine conflict is very near to my heart.

So it's times like this where I try to remember my old friend. I think about that dog that runs around barking with a bucket over her head, and I try to not be that dog.

So, my firends, here is my advice: Just don't be that dog. Okay? And if you see me with a bucket over my head, feel free to call me out on it.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 6th, 2014 03:40 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you rescued her and gave her a good life.

Dave Trowbridge and Deborah Ross have been talking on Fridays at Book View Cafe about their slow process of teaching their GSD adoptee to tolerate the presence of other dogs.
Aug. 7th, 2014 03:36 am (UTC)
I've never met anyone as talented at conditioning dogs as the woman we got her from, and she had to say "you know, this dog is more of a challenge than I can cope with". Sometimes, you just have to take people the way they came.

Or avoid them, in the case of a lot of the human sort I can think of. ;)
Aug. 7th, 2014 03:16 am (UTC)
Heh, this seems like the sort of post I might make if I wanted to make a statement about something highly inflammatory. And in truth, your poor dog's troubled past and her anxieties are quite a powerful story on their own. But then there's the metaphoric lesson at the end.

With regard to this particular chapter in the Israel-Palestine chapter, I'm on the this-is-genocide side of things, and I find it pretty hard, indeed, to listen to other points of view.
Aug. 7th, 2014 03:33 am (UTC)
My sister showed me this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxdxhDOtE2k which I thought you might like.

I tend to like more boring, but comprehensive things like this: http://www.hrw.org/news/2010/12/18/israelwest-bank-separate-and-unequal

But that's because I'm a curmudgeon.
Aug. 7th, 2014 03:46 am (UTC)
I do like the thing your sister sent, and I'll send it to my younger daughter (all my kids would like it, but she's the one with a massive Palestinian flag in her room).

I saw the thing you posted on FB, too, about Sri Lanka. I do understand, and believe, that only love is an answer to hate, but it can be very, very hard sometimes.

But no one ever said things were easy--on the contrary.

… This morning they said over 1,800 Palestinians had been killed in Gaza over recent weeks. Since the population of Gaza is 1.8 million, that means a thousandth of the population has been killed. If the same percentage of the United States were killed, that would be 317,000 dead.
Aug. 7th, 2014 11:38 am (UTC)
Oh, we Americans did it too. That's how we got Oklahoma.
Aug. 7th, 2014 12:10 pm (UTC)
Yep, i know the US has blood on its hands. But this is a version of a tweet I posted (earlier, when the toll was lower) to give people an impression of how proportionally huge the current bloodshed is.
Aug. 7th, 2014 12:12 pm (UTC)
Sorry - that was Ironic Voice not Condescending Voice. On both arms of my family, we live on land stolen from the Cherokee, a tribe we weren't even in armed conflict with. It bothers me.
Aug. 7th, 2014 12:19 pm (UTC)
No worries! Anyway, I think it's good to remember that no people are untarnished, and any time we're pointing out motes in other people's eyes, it's good to remember the beams in our own, so to speak.
Aug. 7th, 2014 12:42 pm (UTC)
Too true. What bothers me is that there are so many people who say "you complain about Israel, but you don't complain about ______".

Well, yes. The problem is not that an exception is made for criticizing Israel, but that Israeli impunity is singled out for protection.
Aug. 7th, 2014 01:17 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I'm sure that's some kind of argumentation fallacy--the notion that you can't protest one wrong unless you're also protesting every other wrong. And as you say, it's more a matter of what you're willing to permit.
Aug. 7th, 2014 02:03 pm (UTC)
Impunity. That's the crux. Protection from consequences.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )