On the 24th of June 2018 when Piran asked me to honour my promise that when his cancer became unbearable I would do the kindest thing a dog owner can do. I said on my personal Facebook page that ‘Maybe I should write a blog about canine listening without pre-judgement, faithfulness & trust. All traits we have lost in human society, if we ever had them, though empathy & reciprocity may go some way towards.’
Well Piran gave us just over 15 years of non-judgemental listening & friendship during which time we went through some really life destroying episodes. So, to have a friend who sits down next you and gives you the hope & reason to carry on is just life changing.
Be honest how many times have you been in a conversation where you are forming your own opinion/ response before the person speaking has completed their story?
Now be really honest how often is your opinion influenced by your assumed viewpoint of that person, whether it’s their dress sense, vocabulary / accent or ‘social’ status.
Or even worse, have you been engaged in a conversation where you sense that you are being watched for your response, feel isolated from the social situation or find yourself under tremendous pressure to confirm to the group’s norm?
According to Fels Institute of Government at University of Pennsylvania. “Whenever we listen to a statement, particularly one that is charged with emotion, our immediate tendency is to evaluate it from our perspective. That’s natural and human and an impediment to communication if we don’t deliberately put on the brakes and control it”.
Step One in Effective Communication – Listen https://www.fels.upenn.edu/recap/posts/813
Based on the research of: Adler, R., Rosenfeld, L. and Proctor, R. (2001)
Interplay: the process of interpersonal communicating (8th edn), Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt.
This conversation we have with dogs is communication at an unspoken level, where there is an emotional response so lacking in many human situations that I can recall.
How many reading this have been bullied by a ‘so called friend’ into behaving not how you would wish to from your heart? On reflection this is usually as a result of their fear causing a manic desire for control & need to dominate.
- faithfulness & trust
What a dog probably cares more about is faithfulness & trust. Both of which can be established in human conversations through listening as a service to the person speaking.
In this deeply personal yet intellectually ground-breaking work, Haraway develops the idea of companion species, those who meet and break bread together but not without some indigestion. “A great deal is at stake in such meetings,” she writes, “and outcomes are not guaranteed. There is no assured happy or unhappy ending-socially, ecologically, or scientifically.
For further insights to the trust that street dogs put in soldiers in war zones please visit
- empathy & reciprocity
If empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, which we seem to naturally have with dogs. Then why do we struggle in our human relationships? Is it because this relationship between a dog & it’s owner could be described as a form of mutualism as in the symbionts benefiting from each other. https://spencerbh.com/not-a-tree-hugger/
Or are we just pre-conditioned to mistrust our human relationships from a survival aspect?
Reciprocity originates from the Latin reciprocus as in ‘moving backwards & forwards’ and thus if empathy is not quid pro quo as in Often times the concept of reciprocity arises when thinking about both the honour of giving and the honour of receiving as the basis for Native American philanthropy. Reciprocity is defined as “the obligation to return benefits for benefits received” (Moody, 1994). Further, Rebecca Adamson suggests that “The reciprocity [in Native America] is not quid pro quo but the gift is given, the beneficiary is expected also to give, not necessarily back, but on, so the gift is always alive” (Wells1998)
where rescued dogs who don’t have much hope are trained to be sociable by inmates who have usually had nobody listen to them all their life. So that the dog develops social skills aiding its chance of finding a forever home & in reciprocation the inmates gain life skills enabling them to contribute to society after release.
This blog is dedicated to the memory of Piran pup 11/06/2003 to 24/06/2018
Thank you for listening without pre-judgement & your faithfulness and trust.