I never really knew how to talk to dogs. They never seemed to get me, either. And they often felt a bit gross and dirty to me. I was a cat person. Cats are gentle and soft and calm, they don’t smell and they move quietly; always cautious, always in control.
But a while ago, a dog came into my life. She was young and nervous and constantly moving and breathing and freaking me out. She made me nervous, too. There was no calming purring sound, and I missed the soft fur of the cats I was used to.
Over the last months though, we got used to each other. We shared the nervousness, and I know how to talk to her now. I know that she doesn’t really care for my gentle words—she wants to run and play and she wants to chew on rough toys.
As I met a friend’s cat the other day, I noticed a difference. I lost my gentleness, I touched the cat too aggressively, I was—quite frankly—shocked about my interaction with her. It took me a while to slow down again. To be calm, to listen, to await the cat’s next move. But then I heard the soft purring, felt the soft fur against my hands, and it put me at ease again.
I’m teaching that to the dog now. If she wants us to get along, she needs to deal with quietness from time to time. And I need to deal with action from time to time. We’re both getting better at it.