Monthly Archives: August 2011

That black-haired beauty and I: Part II “The Paw”

Arwen likes a lot of attention. If her major events during any given day (food time, walking, taking care of business, play time, riding-in-the-car time, food time) are either completed or not immediately forthcoming, then she has two primary residual modes – resting and getting affection. [Which, by the way, if you own a dog like ours one does not necessarily preclude the other].

The black-haired beauty loves to be petted, touched, generally paid-attention-to. AND if by some wild stretch of the imagination you should cease and desist your ministrations you will get — “THE PAW.”

Now we haven’t quite figured out what ‘The Paw” means at any given time, but, in general, it seems to be something akin to “You stopped petting me and I want you to continue.” Simply put, Arwen raises her front paw (most often the right, but I should do a study of this to be sure), and places it on your hand, leg, thigh, shoulder, face – anywhere convenient – to let you know that you have, in doggy terms, just let her down.

And should she be in a position where “The Paw” is not readily positioned to strike, you may very well get “The Eye” – a raising of the head that says pretty much the same thing. If you’ve really been negligent, you may get both “The Eye” followed by “The Paw” and repetitive, more insistent manifestations of ‘The Paw.”

What is difficult to understand is what it is she specifically wants. Generally it is fairly obvious that you have stopped doing something that she found pleasurable; but sometimes you’re not quite sure whether it is “I want more of the same,” or “A little to the left, please,” or “Harder, harder, left; no, right, almost, a little more to the right…” “The Paw might go down if you simply touch her again – it seems it is just the contact that she wants. At other times, “The Paw” comes again and again and in spite of your best efforts you don’t seem to hit on the perfect response.

Did you know that one of the key reasons some people are ‘difficult’ is because they simply want attention. Yes, they may have some very odd (and we could probably correctly say ‘not very well thought out’) ways of garnering attention, but this is a basic fact that is worth contemplating. I can smile and say, “Oh Arwen, isn’t that enough petting for one day,” when I get ‘The Paw’ or “The Eye,” but it isn’t so easy to ignore the in-your-face “I WANT ATTENTION!” you might see manifested by a colleague or relative.

Another truth about some difficult people is that IF we are willing to take the time and make the effort to give them some POSITIVE attention every day, it is far less likely that they will feel the need to seek out attention in negative ways. It is worth thinking about isn’t it?

Are you getting “The Paw” or “The Eye” from someone in some way? Want to share? We can all learn from your contribution.


Joe Koob

The Black-haired Beauty

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That black-haired beauty and I*

Every once in a great while I call my wife and let her know that I’m out with a dark long-haired beauty. You know, it helps keep her on her toes – don’t want her to get any ideas. It’s good she knows that there are other fish in the ocean, and that we ‘mature’ men need younger companionship occasionally.

Of course, this is all tongue-in-cheek and good fun, because my wife knows as well as I that the ‘black-haired beauty’ is our dog, Arwen. She’s a cross between a black Lab and a golden retriever and she looks it. She’s got the ‘golden’ face and hair (I was really hoping when she was a pup that she would have the shorter ‘lab’ hair), but the broad Labrador build. Her distinquishing features are several tuffs of white hair – one on her chin, another on her chest, and some on her stomach. If you look real closely you can also see ‘golden’ flecks in the fur on her front paws and legs.

Arwen and I take a good many long walks together and today while we were (actually I should say, while ‘she was’) exploring our neighborhood for the umpteenth time I thought about how different her perspective of this world truly is from mine. For one thing, by far her most dominant form of investigation is her nose – and she has a good one coming from two hunting dog breeds. As says, “Dogs can sense odors at concentrations nearly 100 million times lower than humans can.”

So as I was watching her sniffing and snuffling I realized that in her world illumination came through her nose more often than not and probably could be broken into several major categories:

What’s on the breeze: I especially notice this behavior when she rides in the car with me with the window down. Arwen sticks her black snout up to the window (not out) and sniffs. Not sure what she understands from what she smells, but it must be important to her because as soon as the window goes down, up goes the snout.

The ‘leavings’ of other creatures: most particularly of other dogs, but Arwen has all those hunting instincts and she knows fair game when she sniffs it. Hence if I gave her free rein she would be ‘on the chase’ of rabbit, squirrel, deer, pheasant, and other scents. Interestingly she did learn eventually during her youth that birds fly and hence are not of much interest as to an all out chase, but then, pheasants tend to stay on the ground longer than many other birds, so they are worth pursuing. [She’s even brought me some gently in her mouth – when she catches creatures, she doesn’t hurt them, at least not on purpose, she wants to play with them or show them off to ‘Dad’ or ‘Mom’.]

Food: Oh, yes! Food is king. Anything edible can be sniffed out and a dog has a wide, wide range of what he/she considers edible. Unfortunately we often do not even know what she has managed to uncover and get into her stomach before we can react. If it smells edible to Arwen, it is, and down-the-hatch it goes.

I’m not quite sure what her eyes tell her, though there is no doubt that she recognizes other dogs even at a hundred paces with the wind in the wrong direction for that powerful nose to help. I haven’t quite figured that one out either, because as you know dogs come in an incredible number of shapes and sizes. You would think there would be some doubt when a vastly different breed shows on the horizon, but there never is. Dog is dog, and Arwen knows the difference instantly.

It certainly can be fascinating taking a long walk with a dog. When you pay attention you start to learn things about life and how to look at it. They can begin to teach you how perceptions can be so vastly different depending on your starting point and orientation. Take a tip from a dark-haired beauty – there’s a good bit that goes on right under your nose!

P.S. So what does this have to do with difficult people? Maybe its not a bad idea to every once in awhile to take a step back and try to see the world from another perspective. No, I can’t get into my dark haired beauty’s head and truly understand what she gets out of all her snufflings and snifflings, but I can certainly appreciate that she sees the world in a vastly different sense than I do. It’s worth thinking about the next time you’re in a difficult situation. What’s the other person bringing to the table?

*with a nod and hat-tip to Kris Kristofferson

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What am I afraid of?

This is one of those questions that you should ask of yourself anytime you find yourself in a difficult situation. And it is not an easy thing to do because we don’t like to think we are afraid.

Here is a very interesting perspective that I have seen pop up in any number of sources recently and I think it is something we could all use to consider from time to time:

There are only two fundamental emotions – love and fear.

And to really tax yourself take this idea a bit further:

                In any given situation we are in we choose one or the other.

So perhaps the question to ask yourself when you are having difficulties with someone is:

                Am I choosing ‘fear’ or am I choosing ‘love’ as my basis for dealing with this person?


                If I want to choose ‘love’ how will I respond or react in this situation with this person?

Try practicing this a time or two as you work through a difficulty with someone and see how all this comes together in your mind and how it affects your emotions. In some ways it seems like this should be straight forward and simple, but it isn’t. You will likely find that you will struggle with this quite a bit because our tendency is simply to react. So if and when you react – then ask yourself – “Was my reaction coming from ‘love’ or from ‘fear’?” And then, “How can I change this to something that comes from a kinder, gentler place within myself.”

It’s a start. Think about it.


Joe Koob

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