“The difference between a mental and physical memory is that while the mental memory is remembered, often erronoeously, physical memory is relived, and the body is never wrong about the past....... ...a dog can't remember yet it never forgets”
....'Your Dog is Your Mirror', Kevin Behan
I have to admit that I struggled to understand this concept when I read it,
it seemed to be contradictory. But. once again I have been educated, when Archie and Jack enacted out a perfect example of this principle.
I was preparing the dogs' meal and had left some very smelly tripe on the
work surface while I went to retrieve their bowls. Archie and Jack
were in the kitchen. Archie is a counter-surfer (work in progress)
and Jack has learnt to sit patiently while salivating profusely as
his food is prepared. All of a sudden Jack was attacking Archie, his
mouth round his neck and giving him a good 'doing' – really heavy
stuff from a hound who is normally really placid and always the first
to look the other way when tempers get frayed. It seemed really out
of character. As a pup Archie had been known to hang off Jacks flews
while Jack just stood there, looking to us for help, but not
I broke up the fray and finished feeding them. At the time I was just in from work, rushing about, cooking meals, organising dogs, desperate to be able to just sit down and relax. So taking the principles of NDT I had to accept that I had contributed to the energy of the situation. I was aware that the incident had the potential to
cause lasting problems between the two dogs and set about a plan to address.
Later that evening I let them out into the garden to see how they were
together. Archie was clearly traumatised, standing still, ears back,
hackles raised, avoiding Jack as much as possible. He had definitely
not forgotten Jack's attack. Jack, on the other hand, was approaching Archie, play-bowing, wagging his tail, sniffing his ears, barking loudly, trying to get the previously boisterous response from Archie. Jack couldn't remember what had
happened. Archie would stand stiffly and then when Jack's antics
subsided move out the way.
Later the two dogs came across each other at a doorway in the house.
Archie tried to sidle past Jack uneasily, hackles raised. Jack's
happy demeanour changed as Archie walked past and Jack's hackles
raised and he growled. What I took from this was that Archie was
'not forgetting' the experience of the attack. Jack, on the other
hand wasn't remembering but he was reading Archie's ungrounded energy in the moment and perceiving a threat.
I restricted their interactions to outside for a few weeks, under my supervision being careful to make sure I was feeling relaxed at these times. The uncertain relationship
continued for a while, but gradually reduced. They are now playing together
actively again and yesterday, when Archie put
his muzzle in Jack's gaping mouth I figured that they are through the
worst of it :).
Archie is still wary of Jack in the kitchen, which is probably a good thing.
I have further confirmation that Jack needs some deeper work on
releasing his blocks and, once again, I have a reminder to remain
conscious in the moment, with myself (as always, something for myself!).
The learning reminds me of a quote from Maya Angelou (author of 'Why a Caged Bird Sings')
I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel
I guess you can apply that to dogs too.