Three Dogs

On Saturday Lauren Scheuer, my friend and blogger, came for iced coffee and conversation. Actually, her dog Marky came to visit Scooter and Lily, and he brought Lauren along. Where Marky goes, Lauren goes. Marky is a funny, scowling, chipmunk-hunting terrier. Scooter thinks he’s a very cool dog. Lily thinks he should play with her more.

What all of them think is that I should be the one to pet them.

It’s always been like this. I got my first cat when she bounded out of the woods and followed me home, despite the fact that I was taking a walk with three dogs who lived on my block. That was before I had my own dog, who started out as neighbor’s dog, but chose to live with me. Dale was not allowed in the house (my parents took a long time to warm up to keeping pets) but nonetheless, she became my dog.

Animals who, I’m told, “don’t like people much” walk across pastures to meet me. These old donkeys in England knew I was a good itch-scratcher.

Karen Pryor was visiting the other day and we talked about this. She, too, is an animal magnet. If you watch Karen around animals you’ll notice that she never stares directly at them, which, for almost all creatures, is a sign of aggression. Nor does she reach out, or grab, or hug. She doesn’t talk much to them, either. What she does do is pay attention. To body language. To a flick of the ear. To a deep breath.

Many animal “whisperers” claim to have secret connections to their animals. There’s nothing mystical about it. It’s quiet observation. It’s knowing the animal. It’s relating to them the way they want to be talked to.

Take your emotional neediness out of the picture. Forget about “unconditional love” and reading human stories onto your animals. See them for who they are and you’ll find plenty of stories, which are more true and more fascinating than any that you invent. Pay attention. Take a step back. And the animals come to you.


  1. Many years ago when I was living on Wolf Rock Road my daughter, after several unsuccessful adoptions of cats, said she wanted to have pets who had ‘character’ like mine. I told her all of them had character and she just had to be observant, pay attention to them. The then manager of the state park who lived on Lowell Road periodically had kittens to be adopted and she took two of them. Samson and Delilah, because she was going to get him blamed for plenty of trouble. Kept them as indoor cats and found lots of ‘character’. Sammy lived to be well over 20!
    So I know exactly what you’re saying.

  2. Before we were married, a black cat found his way through the cat door at my husband’s house. We’re pretty sure one of my husband’s already-established cats brought him home for dinner. Black Kitty integrated himself into my husband’s household pretty well on his own, but anytime I came to visit, Black Kitty was all over me. All. the. Time. When we go to friends’ houses, even the “shy” cats end up letting me pet them before too long. I have the same sort of deal with small children too (I work with preschoolers). No matter how shy parents tell me their kids are, I end up having some sort of conversation with them in fairly short order.

  3. It’s so true, being calm and quiet makes animals curious about us and wanting to “check us out” in a way that they feel safe. I believe that some of us are meant to be keepers of the animals while they and we are here. Although we may be drawn to different animals, donkeys vs goats, horses vs. cows, they can all bring joy to our lives. Nice posting:-)

    • Tell Chester that I don’t blame him for avoiding most people. They’re usually quite rude to cats like him. Very pleased that he considered me polite enough to say hello to!

  4. This is a lovely article about the connections between animals and people. This connection really is something special and it is different for everyone. Thanks for sharing your experiences!