October 29, 2020
By Allison Iantosca
I get that not every person is a dog person. Dogs shed and bark. They lick unimaginably hard places to reach and eat things that: a. you don’t know how they found and b. you would never even touch with your bare hand. They jump on the counter, jump on your mother-in-law, jump into bed with muddy paws. I get it. I was once one of you too until my husband plied me with a Weimaraner puppy fifteen years ago.
As I type, Bauer, our new eleven-month-old pup, is curled at my feet; sweet and gentle demonstrating none of the aforementioned characteristics. This breed is known as the “Velcro” breed; an apt description as he is quite literally stuck to me. He follows me room to room, upstairs and down, inside and out preferably in physical contact and always right between my feet.
Unless it is time for him to go in his kennel which he, understandably hates because, well, I am not going in there with him. Or when he gets something in his mouth he is not supposed to have. Then suddenly my Velcro dog is as slippery as a bar of soap.
There is nothing quite so maddening nor so quickly infuriating. With about seven feet between us I think I can lunge and capture but as soon as I twitch he backs up expanding the gap between us. No amount of deep throat-ed demands or scathing eyeballs lure him to me. I am a failed dog owner rendered completely impotent.
What’s fascinating to me is that this happens with people too. Maybe not as obviously as a canine escapee but equally as powerful. The problem with human beings is that, though equally instinctual, it’s way less obvious.
Meaning that when my dog has found an untoward selection from my neighbors’ trash bin, it’s tangible and the fight is on until I get the garbage in my hand or Bauer happily consumes it. With people, it’s harder to know what the “garbage” looks like, if it’s even possible to extricate it, and how long we will fight.
I suppose it’s not right to compare physical garbage to psychological garbage but my desire to solve the problem has the same yearning. I want my love and my previous relationship to be enough. I want to understand why we are so suddenly at odds and why something else exists that is so much more powerful and so able to interrupt an otherwise mutually sustained collaboration.
Despite these episodes with my puppy, he still ends up on my pillow at night, his head draped over mine in shared blissful comfort, because I love him and forgive him. I find that he responds best to being praised and treated like he belongs in my family.
And I think this is the same for those frustrating human moments too. When someone is ingesting something pretty gross but pretty intoxicating to them it’s pretty certain that the angrier I get about it and the more I make it about what I want the more resistant the other person will get.
Here’s the thing, when I get so mad with Bauer for holding so tight to his garbage he doesn’t actually reciprocate by getting angry and protective; he delightedly finishes his garbage and comes over for a kiss. Given what those lips just touched it’s sometimes hard to lean in with gusto but it’s pretty hard to stay mad at him.
In the end I’m the only one that truly expended energy on being upset with something that had nothing to do with me in the first place. So as we all try to do this work together, when I bump into a human with garbage (and we all have garbage!), instead of glaring and demanding, maybe backing off, getting curious, and staying loving might work a whole lot better…and I just might score a sloppy kiss.
Allison Iantosca is a Gestalt International Study Center (GISC) trained coach certified by ICF with extensive leadership and management experience. She is an Executive Coach and is the Owner and President of Boston based FH Perry Builder.