Dogs are wonderful creatures. In terms of comfortable, clement interactivity, they rank higher than humans for me. Well, animals in general, but in my case, specifically, it’s dogs. And more distinctly, Greyhounds. Umm, ok, narrow that down to one Greyhound: Lucy.
I grew up with a healthy respect for dogs. Dad believed in rescue and adoption, he despised the practice of buying a dog. Some of the rescued dogs were quite feral when they first arrived. I’ve been bitten by a few, our own and the free roaming dogs that lived in the nearby village (our family home was a large brick semi-detached in a modern residential estate, perched at the edge of a traditional Chinese kampong).
Long before the new science of canine behaviour emerged, in the relatively ‘ignorant’ days, there were nevertheless fundamental tenets of respect embedded in our mindscapes about living with dogs.
Simple Wisdom from dad: dogs have different ways of showing affection, different comfort thresholds and different communicative styles from humans. Do not taunt a dog. Do not rush head/face first at a dog. Do not touch the tail, pull ears, pinch, smack etc. Do not surprise the dog. Do not disturb the dog when he/she is eating. If the dog nips you, it is probably your fault. The dog cannot speak in words.
Simple Wisdom from dogs: dogs tolerate a whole lot from humans. Dogs try very hard to communicate with humans. Dogs tolerate a lot of rubbish behaviour from humans. Dogs are wonderful creatures that ought to be respected and treasured, because they can teach you much about how to be a better human.
Lucy has opened up amazing trajectories and dimensions to me, and inspired not only the desire and determination to love and care for her, but also much of my research and practice. To me, she is my non-verbal parallel embodied companion, a living sentience of my own theory and praxis.
Verbality is not superior to non-verbality. Affection and love has many systemic structures and are evinced in myriad configurations. Just because an autistic child/adult does not enjoy hugging or kissing you, or looking in your eyes, does not mean the autist feels no elemental empathic resonance for and with you. Learn to speak our language, especially the silent one, since we are making great effort to learn to speak your verbal one.