As I reflect on working with my puppy mill survivor, I find myself noticing the differences and similarities between working with humans vs working with dogs. I expect more of humans. I want humans to actively participate in their own recovery. In some ways, I even see humans as responsible for the success or failure of their therapy. These thoughts don't arise with Bella. Instead, I find myself wondering to what degree I should challenge her. I know that Bella will always be a dog, whereas human beings transform. I expect the humans I work with to leverage their crises and trials, with my help, into the steps of a ladder. This ladder is the ladder of self-discovery; the birthright of the human being. We are body/mind beings. It is our job to grow. Animals also grow. They seem to experience emotions as we do, at least the mammals do. But I never feel that animals have contributed to their own psychological difficulties. They can be kind, or mean, or loving, or great hunters, but they are never responsible because they don't have the divisions of consciousness that we have. Their choices are all about actions. Our choices are about who and what we will be.
I am beginning to define what success with Bella would be. It would be for us to have a rewarding relationship; a relationship in which we both thrive. I picture hiking the Ithaca gorges, or cuddling with her on the couch. I want her to enjoy her life, and to enjoy her life with me. Can I wish for the same with the humans in my life? Perhaps, but the relationship between dog and man easily crosses a vast divide. The relationship between man and man is tethered by unreasonable demands, contradictory desires, and egos constricted by both inflation and cruel self-diminishment. It is easier, for many people, to love an animal than a human, and these contradictory impulses are the reason. Is it our obligation to try and love our fellow man despite these difficulties?
I imagine a practice. Allow yourself to experience your love of your animal. Let it swell and circulate in your being. Once you've done this, and you feel peaceful and unresistant, picture a person who you love. If your state alters, find out what would need to be the case in order for your love of your fellow human to be as unguarded as your love for your pet. If boundaries to your love rise up in you, find out what would be necessary to dissolve them.