Ah, it's spring. And talk at the Dog Park is of bluebonnets and pollen counts and how long we can hold out before we turn on the air conditioners in our homes. Then there is a pause and inevitably someone mentions that bathing suit season is approaching (which, as you know, in Austin, is about nine months long). Another pause follows. As I've mentioned in previous posts, most of the Dog Parkers I hang with are women—smart, independent, capable, and, let's be honest, seasoned women—but of course we all have body issues, and so we are grateful when this particular conversational thread is clipped short by a dog throwing up grass or dropping a disgusting, drool-sodden tennis ball at our feet.
After one such conversation recently, it occurred to me that one of the many wonderful things about dogs is that they simply don't care what they look like. They just roll with it (or in it). Unlike cats, dogs don't groom themselves in any organized or effective way. And unlike us primates, they don't even recognize themselves in a mirror. (Surely I'm not the only owner whose dog has barked in alarm at her own reflection in the dishwasher door. Or am I mistaken? Is it her way of saying, "Holy crap! Look at how big my tail is? She makes me wear that collar, with my fur color? I'm a freaking disaster!") Are they naturally self-confident? I spend many idle moments every day telling my girls how beautiful they are. (And smart! I don't want them to think that I value them for beauty alone--what kind of mother would I be—so of course I mention their intelligence and sense of humor, also their unfailing appetites and squirrel-spotting capabilities.) But really the boost is all for my own benefit.
Is self-confidence even the right word? Surely it's simply the lack of self-awareness shared by most smaller brained mammals (which includes my ex-husband, to be sure). But a quick check of the dictionary makes me think that it is. Confidence comes from word parts that mean "with trust." Trust is what dogs do--sometimes at their peril. They trust in us, and they trust themselves. They wake up every morning with nothing else to do except follow their instincts. Hungry? Thirsty? Find the food and water bowls. Tired? Take a nap. Need some excitement? Trace the scent of a possum along the fence. Or bark at the neighbor's yard guy. Dogs spend their whole lives in problem-solution mode. How they look while doing it doesn't even enter the picture. They just get stuff done. Which, of course, is a point I try to remind myself of every morning—especially on bad hair days, during PMS, on days where my nose is pink from allergies or my back and ass muscles hurt so much that I can't stand up straight. That is, just put on your game face, walk out the door, and do what you need to do.
So, ladies of Dog Park, I implore you to remember this simple dog-tested lesson: Trust your instincts and forget about bathing suits. Chase those squirrels. Hunt down those treats. Bark at the mailman. Make that @#$%ing chew toy squeak for its very life. Then, go take a nap. You deserve it.