Sunday, August 23, 2009

"Teacher's Pet"

Last week when our Shih Tzu, Nicky, had her surgery and came home with uncomfortable stitches which seemed to motivate her to skitter from cushion to cushion, we all adapted to her lead and intuited what she needed. A week later, we are celebrating her 8th birthday, by our Sunday morning ritual at the waterfront park near our home.

With my daughter Molly's, freshly baked Peanut Butter star-shaped cookies in hand for the canines, and Chocolate Chip Cookies for the pet owners, we headed to the marina for the first time in 10 days, post-surgery. The usual gang was there: Ziggy, the Shih Tzu Casanova of the group, Lexa, an Energizer bunny Maltese who romps with her beau Ziggy, Trevor, an Airedale statesman, Georgia, a perfectly coiffed Southern belle Poodle, and Taco, who of course is a Chihuahua. These regulars were accompanied by 12 other dogs who ran, tumbled, and rolled with one another; what a birthday party we had!

The remarkable thing about the gathering was not the presence of 17 dogs. Rather, when Nicky arrived, their normal greeting of flying over to say hello and sniff her posterior didn't happen. Seven dogs very gently descended on her, and immediately scoped out her surgical area. No one sniffed their usual under-the-tail greeting spot. No one jumped. No one bounced. They cautiously approached her. How did they know?

Did they remember the scent of anesthetic from being spayed? The instantaneous knowing that occurred made my jaw drop. So I got to thinking: if dogs can know in an instant what is up with one another, and immediately adapt and apply their empathic responses, couldn't we take a page out of their book?

Can we learn to cultivate that knowing so that we can sniff out the needs of our friends, colleagues, and clients? Do you think that empathic knowing keeps us genuine and real?

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