I'm good at hiding my needs. I stuff, sublimate, ignore, numb or simply neglect. Isn't that what all "well adjusted" people do? If our needs are totally transparent we risking becoming selfish, high maintenance or even whiny.
Oliver has no such fears. He's never been a needy dog. Sunshine, a fenced-in back yard, some squirrels for entertainment, a head pat or belly rub a day and he's been good to go. Until lately.
Being a dog, he has no idea how to hide things. Since being forced to stay off the furniture because of an emerging trend towards aggressive dominance a few months ago, his needs have changed. He wants to be held, stroked, reassured, loved – and his naked need is breaking my heart.
There is a chasm between the ottoman where Oliver lays, always intently watching us, and the chair where we are sitting. He knows no other way than to risk crossing the chasm with this little body, inch by inch, until his front half is being held on my lap and his back half hangs in the balance.
For him, the fear of falling is nothing compared to the fear of not being loved. There is no aggression. No dominance. Just a wagging tail and an unwavering gaze of connection.
If the chasm between the chair and ottoman is too wide he simply throws himself into the separation and quietly lays his head in my lap, content to stand that way as long as I allow the connection to continue.
Maybe it's not the neediness of his actions that breaks my heart. Perhaps it's the pure vulnerability.
I sit on one side of the chasms in my life and stare across the empty space. I can't bear the thought of another rejection. Throwing myself into the separation seems suicidal so I sit here and write. And think.
And I am forced to wonder – who's more "well adjusted". . . him or me?