Walking regularly for both leisure and transport, I see a lot of other people who are walking dogs. The mood of the people often appears to be defined by the weather and temperature. In the rain and cold, people hunch their way dutifully through the dog walking.
With the dogs themselves, it’s invariably a different story. Rain or shine, hot or cold, dogs go out into the world in a state of excitement and enthusiasm. They’re poised to be delighted, curious, playful and happy. They are easy to please – a smell, a stick, a squirrel – you can watch them engage with the world and find things to enjoy at every turn.
Dogs are far better than people when it comes to being happy. They forgive quickly, too, and forget, and move on. A dog has to endure considerable mistreatment before it becomes wary, anxious and unhappy. I run into those dogs, too. They’re a lot more like most people, keeping a safe distance, watching for signs of threat, trying to second guess gestures, tones of voice, actions. It makes me wonder about people.
Children are more like dogs, more willing to bounce out into the world each morning to embrace the day and delight in whatever it gives them. If we don’t lose that as we grow up, we’re encouraged to voluntarily give it up. Too much enthusiasm, I have been told, suggests emotional immaturity. It troubles me that jaded cynicism, dispassion, disinterest, are considered good adult states of being, and playful delight is treated as a bit suspect.
I’ve been watching dogs for some time now, trying to learn from them. I often find when I’m out and about that dogs want to interact with me, far more than ever their humans do. I find solace and comfort in a sniffing nose and wagging tail. Tactile comfort too, with those who rock up demanding ears be scratched behind. Dogs are more sociable than people, not least because they’re so willing to enjoy being sociable, to enjoy other dogs, other people and anything else that comes along.
On the whole, I wish I could be more like a dog. Unfortunately, I don’t have the grace of a dog – the grace of feeling entitled to follow your own nose and acceptable and just being able to rock up, tail wagging, to do your thing. I can quietly practice the delight, but the more tactile forms of engagement remain beyond me.