Cutting Through the Subterfuge

Dakota doesn’t do aloof.

When I meet her, her eyes go wide, she does little jumps, her neck bobs like a buoy in the bay.

I bend down to her, while chatting with the person on the other end of her leash. And as I scratch her burnt-sugar colored fur, Dakota leans into, practically topples over into my legs.

I finish my conversation with Dakota’s person. I put my hand back in my pocket. Dakota looks at me, raises her paw, swats gently at the hand in my pocket.

Call her shameless. Call her demanding. But I’m not so sure. How many of us want care, never ask for it (so needy! we think), feel unlovable when we don’t get it?

Of course we want care. We’re living creatures. We can’t live on air, water, calories alone. But the world teaches us a terrible thing: that it’s weak to ask for care - for a long hug, a hand at our back, for someone to give us her undivided attention, check-in on us now and again. Or that if people really cared for us, they’d do these things without us having to ask.

It takes strength of heart to cut through all the subterfuge and ask for care. And to remember that people can’t read our minds, might think we don’t even need their support.

I take my hand out of my pocket and rub Dakota’s outstretched neck. Her legs collapse, she folds into a blissful, burnt-sugar colored heap. Her person and I grin; the dog has no pretenses. She doesn’t hint or hope: she asks for what she wants. If she is vulnerable for wanting, her vulnerability is outshined by her strength; it takes real strength to let the world know our needs.

I say goodbye to Dakota’s person. I give the burnt-sugar colored dog a last rub across the back. She bobs in appreciation. I walk into my day, aware as I hadn’t been before, that we powerful creatures are allowed to ask for care. And perhaps part of our power can only be realized in asking for it.

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