Sunday, November 8, 2009

WitGit: Learning from Animal Bites

Where is the Grace in getting bitten by a horse, by a dog?

Typing is problematic today; my right hand is swollen in preparation for what is sure to be one big ugly blue black bruise from an interaction with a horse friend of mine. (Yes, I'm taking my arnica, and wrapping with castor oil and a few drops of lavender, and the swelling has significantly decreased.)

And, our rescue dog, Miss Ellie, apparently never learned bite inhibition as a puppy, so I am working on ways to help her learn how to moderate her mouth pressure at play and during communication. Mouth, teeth: these are tools that dogs, horses, cats, and most other animals use to communicate with each other.

There are models of human-animal interaction that require that biting be met with swift punishment delivered by the human to the animal. But I am committed to working with animals in a yogic way, so that cannot be my first response. What to do then?

What happened with my horse friend was the horse being a horse, and my presence was a complicating factor. (I'm working on a longer piece about this, stay tuned). With Ellie, she never learned something that most puppies learn. Punishment isn't fair to them, yet boundaries need to be set for reasons of safety and social contract.

If there was anything about the horse interaction I could change, it is my awareness about what the horse on the other side of the pen is doing. I would like to react faster to get my hand out the way, but the speed of the horse's reaction is probably always going to be faster than mine.
That's a reality.

Horses are horses, dogs are dogs, people are people. As we come together in companionship and healing, we have to respect the animals for being who they are, and respect who we are at the same time.

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