I met Shadow 9 years ago on a 23rd of December when he was four, so he’d already had a lot of training and life experiences. I’ve been reflecting so much on what he’s brought into my life. I feel like such a lucky human to know this beautiful being.
For whatever reason, Shadow has got very strong bite inhibition.
He will give you a lot of signs that he’s unhappy, and if you miss them or he does snap, it’s generally super gentle. Like ‘I have teeth’ rather than a bite. (Of course, we’re careful, he could have a bad day and that can change in an instant...)
But he’s such a good role model for asserting boundaries. And teaching his family about consent.
🐾 Uh oh. I have a bad feeling.. *nose lick, side eye, turning aside.*
🐾 Nope, I’m done, I’m walking away.
🐾 I don’t like it when you touch my back like that, *soft growl.*
🐾 My paw is super sore. I’m worried you’re going to hurt it more. *Big growls and showing teeth*
🐾 You can’t have this thing I stole, it’s MINE! *more growls and defensive posture.*
He communicates and we do our best to listen and honour his requests. We barter sometimes. The vets that know him, know how to work with him and earn his trust.
For a human who finds asserting boundaries and expressing anger hard, it’s beautiful in a way to see how subtle and incremental his communication is.
There’s a simplicity to it that is really inspiring. And that’s partly because we listen and don’t stop him from growling - so he knows when a little grumble is enough vs allllll the snarling. And that’s something else that’s relevant for humans too.
If you have learnt to suppress your anger, if it wasn’t safe for you to express it... there’s a chance you’ll keep biting down until you explode.
I have been like this.
No small growls, just all out fucking-messy-screaming-quit-my-job-and-throw-things rage.
My first mentor, the wise and lovely Sam Attenborough helped me to witness this uncomfortable part of myself. It was yucky and embarrassing. And completely understandable. I was being Very Nice. Until I wasn’t.
So I know now that one of the reasons Shadow is my friend us because he’s helping me to learn the alternative path. To communicate more clearly all the time, and not smile and then snap.
Thank you for another lesson Shadow.