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Friendship

Friendship is still something I’m not very good at. I’m friendly, and I have some friends, people I care about who care about me, but I’ve never figured out how to be a good, day to day friend to someone. I have friends who I can reach out to when big things happen, positive or negative, and I know that they will hear me, and they know that I will hear them. But I don’t have people I call every day, or every week. I’ve tried, very hard, to do better at this. I’ve tried to put myself in positions to have friends like that, but something always stops me.

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Cricket can relate.

There’s a constant monologue in my head judging what I say to other people. Was I friendly enough? Too friendly? Do they like me or think I’m a loser? It’s as if the closer I get to other people, the more rejectable I feel, and the more damage they can do to me. It’s easier to care about people from afar, but them I’m lonely and isolated, and that’s not good either.

I was better at mimicking friendship when I was a kid, doing all of the behaviors asked of me: listening, caring, and showing attention. But I was never very good at requiring friendship in return, or believing that I deserved it. If someone got angry at me, and said that I wasn’t being a good enough friend, I believed it. If someone said I wasn’t interesting enough to be their friend, I believed them. I didn’t like it, but it seemed true to me.

I like where I live now. I like that there are people who live all around me, and even without planning to, I can run into a neighbor (and her dog!) on a random laundry trip. But it’s so much easier to befriend dogs than people. First of all, they always have their own humans, so I don’t have to take responsibility for them. With other humans, I always feel like I’m supposed to help them, take care of them, and do things for them, and I feel disappointed when they don’t fix everything for me in return. With dogs I can just share a nice moment, offer affection and curiosity, and then move on. Except, I usually feel bereft and guilty for walking away from dogs too, as if I should have done more for them, or gotten more from the exchange.

My therapist once said that she assumed I had an attachment disorder, and that’s why I didn’t have more friends. She was so relieved when I fell in love, because it proved that I wasn’t completely detached, even though it also meant my heart was broken when he said goodbye. But the thing is, I never felt detached. If anything I felt more attached than I could stand.

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“Harrumph.”

One of the benefits of becoming a therapist is that I can focus on caring about other people, without requiring them to care about me in return. My job as a therapist is to give, and not to take, and that feels so much easier to me. I like being kind to people. I like helping people, and feeling compassion and understanding for people. But I don’t like being disappointed in people when I have expectations of them, or need things from them.

Cricket is a great customer for this kind of therapy, at least with me. She’s much more of a caretaker with her grandma: guarding her, listening to her, keeping her company. With me, she accepts my support and guidance and attention, and seems to be free of any burdens of care in return.

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Cricket guarding Grandma

I miss my Butterfly, though, because however much she needed me and needed my care, she always had room in her heart for me, and licked my hand to let me know she was with me. Cricket has tried to take on that role, every once in a while, when I scratch her under her chin, but the licks last only for a moment, and then she wants me to take her outside for her walk. And that’s okay with me, because she loves her walks and her joy is contagious.

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“Hi Mommy. Do you need lickies?”

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“Let’s go! There’s so much sniffing to do!”

Bella, The flying Dog

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Cricket and Bella do the sniff

 

 

            We first met Bella when she was four months old and too small for the pink harness tightened around her chest. She looked like a sling shot, popping out of the harness, leaping from it, trying to fly.

Bella is a tan and silver Yorkshire terrier mixed with some unknown, big-headed dog. She lives down the hill from us and we see her leaning out the passenger side window of the car when her family drives up the hill. She gets great joy out of hanging her head out of the window like a daredevil.

Cricket likes Bella, up to a point. She likes that they are the same size, and both girls. She likes that Bella seems happy and friendly. It’s only when Bella starts to invade personal space that Cricket rethinks her feelings. Cricket mistakes enthusiasm for aggression and growls, and Bella mistakes the growling for an invitation to play, which gets dangerous and requires lifting Cricket up so she doesn’t attack Bella with her teeth.

One day, we came home to find Bella running loose down the hill.          It was a shock to drive around the corner and see Bella running down the hill towards us. It was raining, just a little, but enough to make the sky grey and visibility a little muffled. Bella was racing down the middle of the street towards our car and her parents were waving frantically at us.

Mom parked the car at the top of the hill, in front of our house, and was about to walk down the hill to help, when Bella’s parents called out and asked if we could bring Cricket in case Bella would run to her and then be easier to catch. They told us that Bella had slipped her collar off and gone racing around the block.

Cricket was thrilled to have her leash put on and she was very excited to see Grandma and Bella’s Mom, and she seemed to know that something important was happening. Bella ran to Cricket right away and came almost close enough for us to grab her collar, but then she sped away again.

We created a three pointed trap, with Cricket and Grandma at one corner, then me and Bella’s Mom at the others, all blocking potential escape routes until Bella had no where to go. Bella was soaking wet after running through wet grass for half an hour. And once she was caught, her mom held her, belly and legs out and dangling, ready for the towel her Dad had brought out for her.

Cricket was ready to go for a walk of her own after all of that excitement, but I was wiped out. Just walking back up the hill was more than I could handle, once the adrenaline wore out. But I also wanted something more to happen. I’ve felt that way after every dog-saving event. It’s not that I want a reward, though a little statue of me catching the dog would be nice for the top of my bookcase. Cricket and I were at loose ends for a little while, but then we were ready for our afternoon nap. We were pooped.

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The three girls, momentarily untangled

We met up with Bella the other day for the first time since Butterfly has been here. Bella was her rambunctious self and Cricket stood back a bit, but Butterfly went up close and examined her new friend. She stood there without budging, no matter how many times Bella raced from side to side and flattened into play pose.

Eventually, Bella calmed down, and Cricket inched forward, and the three of them did some mutual sniffing. Butterfly didn’t seem to mind being the peacemaker between Cricket and Bella. She accepted their different energies and knew how to manage them. She’s very Zen.

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Zen Butterfly

Cricket and Ursula

Is that Ursula?

Yep.

 

 

Ursula is the dog next door. She looks a lot like a tall Bichon Frise. Her legs are long and she doesn’t have that two-back-legs-tied-together walk I’ve seen on a lot of Bichons, but she does have the white afro. In fact, it’s hard to see her apricot markings when she’s in full fluff.

Before Ursula came home we were told about her. Our neighbors had found a stray dog on a trip to visit family in Mexico and they wanted to know if we would take her. But we had only recently adopted Cricket and she was already more than enough work for me.

Our neighbors decided to take her themselves. It took at least a month before she came home. She was skinny and fragile like a fawn. Her hair was cut down to the nubs and it was hard to tell what breed or breeds she was, but she was about Cricket’s size and very friendly. Except that her idea of friendly was to run at Cricket, bob and weave and then stand up on her back legs and box. But Cricket loved it.

Now, if Cricket sees Ursula down the block, she starts to hop like a kangaroo and pulls to get to her. And then they run to greet each other like long lost sisters and tangle their leashes in knots.

I can never manage to time Cricket’s walks to match Ursula’s, so weeks or even months can go by before they see each other again. But the other day, I saw Ursula out walking and she stopped to sniff exactly the spot where Cricket had peed a few hours earlier. She sniffed carefully, placed herself, and left a return message right next to Cricket’s spot. And I’ve seen Cricket do exactly the same. It seems that they’ve been communicating with each other whether I was able to see it or not. They are pee-mail pals and it makes me feel better to know that. I’d rather they could see each other in person more often, but it’s good to know they are keeping in touch.

I had a friend once who ran up and hugged me like Cricket and Ursula do. It was breathtaking. I never felt like I deserved that greeting but it felt good in the moment. I’m glad Cricket has that in her life.

Are they whispering to each other?

 

Time to go for a walk