I can lead my dog to people but I can’t make her cuddle

Older fellow holding out basset hound's ears, both sitting on couch

So far, my PAL Jelly is relishing the endless attention from packs of dog-loving people. Before we started, I worried that she would misbehave on visits, but I see now that my fears were unfounded. Turns out she is too busy socializing to misbehave.

Our official twice-monthly placement starts in December, where I’m hoping Jelly’s occasional howling will not further deafen the (hopefully) hard-of-hearing retirement-home residents. Since we’d like to PAL around more often than that, we’ll pick up additional one-time visits at other sites. Watch me pace myself, reluctantly.

During our inaugural outing at the art fair, Jelly survived a near-constant stream of people wanting to meet her. One in particular stands out in my mind. A father encouraged his dog-fearing son to greet Jelly, pushing the young’un toward us. Jelly could sense the boy’s hesitation, so she eyed the boy cautiously, then moved to an eager dog-loving adult. I dragged Jelly back to the boy, but she wasn’t interested. I felt sad for the little tyke.

In hindsight, I should have let Jelly visit with whomever she wanted. I can’t pick her friends, and she won’t take to some people. Rejection is something we all have to deal with at some point in our lives. Jelly’s reluctance may have hurt the boy’s feelings temporarily, which is unfortunate. Hopefully another PAL welcomed him with open paws.

I may want Jelly to love everyone she meets, but she won’t. She’ll tolerate a lot, including incessant ear rubs and cuddling bordering on smothering, even if she doesn’t necessarily like it.

Since I’ve stopped trying to direct Jelly’s visits, I feel a lot more relaxed. I’m no longer acting as her social facilitator; she can manage the crowd herself. My new approach worked like a charm during our visit with stressed university students last Saturday. I let Jelly interact with whomever she wanted, and those students who felt neglected moved on to another dog. No tears were shed, perhaps because I offered free tried-and-true study tips to those who felt neglected.

Jelly has people she’s drawn to and others she doesn’t care for or is hesitant to approach. Heck, so do I. Maybe Jelly kept her distance from that little boy out of respect for his fear. Or maybe she couldn’t smell food on his hands like she could on the other children visiting that day, whose hands she washed lovingly.

If someone doesn’t fawn over Jelly, she simply moves on to the next person. She doesn’t waste her time seeking love and affection from someone who’s just not into her; she trusts the next person will find her irresistible. She doesn’t need everyone to adore her like I do. Think of the time I’d save if I stopped fretting about others’ impressions of me. Jelly is clearly the more emotionally mature of the two of us.

I do have one enduring concern, however: that Jelly’s entourage will not find her exuberant voice endearing. That high-decibel attention-seeking howl can be alarming to anyone who isn’t expecting it. In hindsight, maybe that’s why that little boy was hesitant to approach her. In that case, I don’t blame him.


2 thoughts on “I can lead my dog to people but I can’t make her cuddle

  1. Anybody who likes dogs, loves the howl of a hound. Okay maybe I’m a bit biased 😉
    Happy to see that both you and Jelly enjoy the new job that will bring so much joy and pleasure to people that are in need of some unselfish love or just a way to relax.


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