What's Your Instinct?
My dog Snoopy has major psychological issues. No really, he does. He's turning eight years-old this month, and for his entire life up to this year, he's been a basket-case. Whenever we leave the house, he goes into a panic. He screams, and yelps, and cries as soon as he sees any hint of the possibility that we are leaving. At first it was cute. "Look how much he loves us! He doesn't want us to leave." But it wasn't long before we were hollering: "Shut up Snoopy!" And we would race to the door, eager to close it behind us to shut out his annoying howling.
When we came back home (whether two minutes or two hours), it was certain that there would be a lovely present for us. Some type of excretion was inevitable. In addition we've been greeted with ripped up papers of every kind (including money), torn apart pens, pencils, plastic containers and/or bags, ripped apart stuffed animals and/or pillows, etc. He even figured out how to open the refrigerator, and he would eat anything within his reach and leave the container on the living room floor for us.
Eventually, after the destruction of several important items and after finally tiring of the surprises and unplanned cleaning and mopping sessions, we started crating him whenever we left the house. He barked and howled the entire time we were gone (to the point of being hoarse) -- whether it was two hours or twelve hours. The poor thing. The poor neighbors. We were at a loss as to what to do with him.
Recently, my daughter's cat Romeo came to stay with us for a while. Guess what? Snoopy is quiet as a mouse when we leave. And when we come home, there are no surprises. Well, actually, it's a huge surprise to discover nothing awaiting us except Snoopy and Romeo happily standing side-by-side at the door.
All he needed was a friend. The loneliness was killing the poor guy! I should have known as the feeling is not foreign to me. It's no fun being alone in the house, and I have the ability to leave whenever I want to escape the isolation. What about the sick and/or elderly? What about those who don't drive? What about those suffering from social anxiety or phobias? It can be a living hell. And if others are not paying attention or reading our signals correctly, the suffering can endure for years unnecessarily.
Mother Teresa was exposed to severe poverty yet she said: "The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved." Snoopy had that figured out long before I did. He just needed a friend to sit with him. There's a lesson there for me -- for all of us. Most of us don't outwardly express our needs the way Snoopy did. Perhaps we're too proud. But we all have a need to be loved ... to be with others ... to be held and praised. Animals aren't as "intelligent" as us. They are driven by instinct. Sometimes I think we're too "smart" for our own good.
Snoopy and Romeo
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