Sorry I haven’t been writing for a while.
I visited my friends the other day. Their dog barked at me, non-stop. I was smiling, speaking to the dog softly, praising him. His master also asked him to be good. “Darling, it’s ok, good boy!” They tried to calm the dog down.
The dog jumped on me, barking even louder. My friend said, “Janet, CC (dog’s name) is actually waiting for you to give him a stroke. Give him a stroke and he’ll be fine.”
I obediently gave CC a lovely stroke, stroking his back up and down, and kept praising him, even kindly telling his master that his dog got soft, lovely fur and the dog was affectionate.
The dog continued to bark. My friend asked me to stroke the dog again, and stroke in a specific way. He demonstrated how the dog would have liked to be stroked, with a certain strength, from the neck down. I was a keen learner, and I was a guest, so I obediently stroked the dog the way I was instructed to.
I sat down to try to have a chat with my friends, but their dog was constantly interrupting. I wasn’t comfortable.
I have seen less of my friends since they kept this dog. I accepted that I needed to follow their rules as I was a visitor. However, I’m feeling the rules are getting more demanding on me.
It makes me wonder what makes a good guest.
There’s a Chinese saying that if you love someone, you have to love even the crows on the roof of his house － 爱屋及乌 (ài wū jí wū). You can read about the story of this idiom here. However, this idiom is normally translated into English as Love me love my dog. It would have been totally incomprehensible to translate the idiom literally.
To be honest, I found this rule — Love me love my dog — more difficult to follow than Jesus’s command in the Bible: “Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”
I’m not sure if Jesus included loving ‘your neighbours’ pets’ in his order. I’ve never heard a minister interpreting the message as “Loving thy neighbours’ big barking dog who likes to jump all over you and nearly knock you over.”
My husband told me that he knows CC doesn’t like me. I’m fine with that. I didn’t even complain much when CC jumped on me one morning while I was on my way to work. CC enjoyed his morning walk with his master. When CC jumped on me, I didn’t even get an apology.
However I’m annoyed with the feeling that I’m made to please the dog, and there is an expectation of me to bond with the dog. With this reasoning, the dog’s barking is caused by me not calming/stroking/entertaining him enough, instead of the misbehaviour of the dog or its lack of training.
I’ve almost stopped visiting my friend or going out for a walk with them. My husband explained that I’m an outsider and I don’t fit in with the lifestyle of the dog. However, I do feel liberating not having to succumb to the dog’s demand. On the other hand, I do feel sad that human relationship is ever so fragile, and my relationship with my friends has to be adjusted because of the tension between the dog and me. I’m a foreigner living in a foreign countryside, but I seem to be losing friends faster than before these days.