Being Petful Means Appreciating Their Experiences

I used to operate under the notion that my dog was an extension of my experience in the world. Now, I’m thankful for being part of his day.

Editor’s Note: In July 2015, Pets Adviser rebranded as Petful, the site you see today. In honor of that occasion, we asked some of our regular readers to tell us what “being petful” means to them. Here’s one of their responses.

My dogs Guthrie Van and Evan Liam.

By Deborah Sanders
Subscriber since January 2015

I’ve read that dogs experience their life primarily through their nose, led through the world by an endless stream of scents, not just as smells, which to humans are sensory afterthoughts, but rather as intelligence.

Dogs, I’ve learned, interpret their worlds through layers of the olfactory. It’s not that they don’t “see” things, it’s just that they are not piqued by the visual experience as their first filter on the world. Vision is just another sense.

I used to operate under the notion that my dog was an extension of my experience in the world, and that every shared moment — the walk, the cuddle, the tug of war with the toy — was something he did for me. Simply put, I thought he was having my day.

Culturally, we’ve come to both marginalize and elevate our dogs. The wealthy have taken hits for personifying dogs as indulgent playthings while at the same time limiting their “dogness.” In so many ways, the excesses have artificially raised the dog to a place even he would not prefer. Dog “excesses” are often extensions of the human experience. If you asked a dog how to best love him, much of what you think you do for him would be lost as things that hold no value — to the dog.

Learning that my dog’s first experience of his day was in no way like my own made me more aware of things “other” than me. In my dog’s perception, I was visiting his day! I was on his walk, entering into his slumber, responding to his desire for play.

And then it occurred to me that this experiential lens extended to everyone, those closest to my immediate life and those whose connection to me is by chance or completely remote. Everyone is having a day that is not yours, and you are in it as an accessory. Sometimes what I do or feel bumps into you, but it never becomes you.

In this way, it’s possible to see the light of so many souls on individual journeys — sort of how you see lights shooting into the sky in a fireworks display, headed into the same sky, moving in the same direction, with the same ultimate purpose, but moving distinctly nonetheless, not one less important or meaningful than the other, all necessary for the final crescendo. Without each, the display would fail.

I now see my dog that way, every day, shooting through the sky, as it were, on his own little path toward the crescendo. I’ve come to let him linger a while on his walk at a smell that arouses him and brings him to his highest state of awareness — petfulness — because that’s all we can hope to achieve here. All of us.

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What does being petful mean to you? If you’re on Twitter, tweet your response to that question and be sure to use the hashtag #petful. We’ll pick 3 people to get one of our cute new tote bags!

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