Building Trust With Animals and People

Yesterday we had a visit from a neighbor’s dog. We have seen him before. I think I wrote about him once before. On that occasion we had to call animal control because he had no identifying information. Luckily he was chipped and they were able to locate the owner. This time he had a collar with his name and a phone number.  I called, but unfortunately the owner was not home and we had to leave a message.

We do not have any fencing or a place to contain a dog, so he was just ambling along following my hubby as he worked out in the yard. He would wonder off, but always come back close to him. He is a very friendly dog but a big fella. He was content to have his ears scratched and just hang around. He could easily knock you over with one of his well intentioned enthusiastic jumps.

About two hours after I left the message, the owner called. She was apologetic the dog was there, explaining how he continuously seems to break his chain. She further explained she was at work, but that someone was going home to check on the dog. I let hubby know, but the dog had meandered off again, exploring the woods.

A man arrived shortly after to bring the dog home. He walked up behind hubby and startled him. It was what transpired next that was troubling. The dog cowered when he saw him. Even with treats, the dog stayed by hubby rather than  move toward the man. I don’t know if the dog just did not want to go home, or if he was resisting being chained up again, but my thoughts about that dog have lingered. Was he afraid to go home?

It made me think about trust, how it is formed, and what happens when it is broken. A pet depends on its owner to be its caretaker. To feed and care for it, and to love it for all its life. Was this dog trying to tell us something? He did go willingly once he was on a leash, or was he just having too much fun running in the woods?

I reflected back on my time as a teacher and how many of my students looked to their teachers when things were rocky at home. To have a child’s trust is a huge responsibility and I recall several times students shared reportable situations with me because they trusted me. It is an immense weight to carry, but one that is so important. I wonder how many children from difficult home environments have lost their safety net in this pandemic.

It takes me a long time to develop trust in someone. Trust enough that I would share the ‘big’ things. And when that trust is broken, it is very hard to recover – at least for me.

I hope the pup is ok. And I hope our ‘at risk’ children are okay.