On Receiving

My precious Golden Doodle friend wants me to pet him on the head.

About once a month, I have the privilege of watching my friend’s dog for a 3-4 days. I’ve written about this dog several time on this blog because I always learn something from him.

I say it is a privilege to watch him because he is such a joy. He’s wonderfully playful and very chill, alternating between these but never hyper or super-barky. And he’s so attentive. It seems he’s always aware of me, just paying attention and noticing, either passively or actively. When I get up, he gets up. When I move to a different room, he follows me. When he’s with me, he’s very attuned to me.

He’s also a natural therapy dog. He was never trained as such but he’s functioned that way for many people. He’s well known and very beloved on the University of Michigan campus, and students love to be greeted by him and have a chance to pet him.

He’s also super snuggly. He’s a giver dog. I’ll be on the couch, watching tv, and all the sudden, I’ll feel his head rest on my feet as a pillow. Or he’ll cuddle right up next to me, and it makes my heart full.

Yes, a giver. But today, I want to talk about how he’s a receiver.

He loves scritches. He likes when I pet him under his chin. I think he likes all that snuggling for himself, not just as a gift to me. I found myself thinking about this over the weekend.

I mean, yes, he’s a dog. Like all dogs, he enjoys all of that. But I was thinking about how receiving is a natural part of his life. I’m not sure why so many humans resist receiving from each other. Sometimes, we don’t like to be helped, or seen, or complimented.

This lovely, vicarious dog I have never says, “Oh no, I’m fine,” refusing to let me be the giver. He never seems to feel guilty for receiving. He never says, “Oh, I feel like such a burden.” He doesn’t get up to clean the whole kitchen to prove that giving is what his role is supposed to be. He doesn’t seem to believe he must be productive at all times. He doesn’t do a million things for me out of fear that I might leave him if he doesn’t please me perfectly. He doesn’t hide under the couch, afraid that I might see him, know him, and care.

So why do humans do and feel the equivalents of all of these things?

It’s good to receive.

Renee Roederer

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