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Envy smarts when I read tweets like this one from @KellyGDunbar: Trying 2 type w/an 85lb AmBull (Dune) on my back-He’s sitting behind me on my chair w/his huge head on my shoulder as tho he’s reading-he missed me. 

Or, this from @Barrie: Night all. My dogs and I are off to bed for cuddles and to watch a Nick Dodman DVD—or something to that effect. 

What’s to envy you ask? It’s not that Barrie has a TV in her bedroom and I don’t. It’s all that physicality! These dogs are proactive cuddle-bunnies. 

A huge, wonderful part of having a dog, at least for me, is the bottomless doggie bowl of I-can’t-get-close-enough-to-you snuggles and kisses. In fact, I picked Sadie from among her littermates because she melded into my body when I held her. Surely this was a promising sign of cuddles to come. But I guess she was just tired that day. It was the first and last time she melded. 

Don’t get me wrong. Sadie has her physical moments. Greetings mostly. But, after she performs her ecstatic wiggle-butt, tippy-toe dance, Sadie chills. No annoying pawing at my lap for affection. Stroke her just once when she’s resting, and she’s up and away. 

Most of all, I just want Sadie to snuggle with me in bed. It’s normal for dogs to curl up with you like they did their littermates. Right? 

Victoria Stilwell spends a good many TV hours trying to coax dogs out of their people’s beds. Me? I’m trying to cajole Sadie into mine.

But, she’s just not that into me.

I never fretted much over men.

When Alex smilingly said, “I have to hit the books Saturday night,” I knew that was code for “You’re history,” and not the kind he suddenly had to study. A soothing chat with my college roommates and I was pretty much good to go. All in all, I didn’t waste much time fantasizing about how things coulda been or shoulda been. I didn’t roll over and over in my mind all matter of things wrong with me, like so many numbered balls in a lotto tumbler. I’m not sure where I learned this savoir-faire. Maybe it’s hereditary. I think my mom was the same way. And, now that I’m married, that whole issue is, indeed, history.

But, Sadie?

I pine. I brood. 

Sadie chooses to lie next to me (sigh) while gnawing on her beloved bone. She loves me!

I sit down on the couch and she jumps off. She loves me not. 

Sadie greets me with kisses and wiggles. She’s into me!

I invite her to join me in bed. Sadie refuses. She’s not.

Seems I’ve hitched a ride on that special emotional roller-coaster reserved for people like me who are totally in love with their dog and want that love reciprocated in the way they want it! I’m up. I’m down. I’m exhilarated. I’m crushed. Why can’t Sadie just be over-the-top affectionate, like Kelly’s American Bulldog, Dune?

I know in my mind that if I don’t jump off this crazy carnival ride it’s only going to pick up speed and probably crash! But hope springs eternal for my broken heart and it keeps me hangin’ on. Maybe someday my Sadie-girl will sleep next to me, her head on my pillow.

Perhaps the problem is my high-pitched, staccato entreaty–“Sadie girl, come on, jump up! Jump up! Jump up!” punctuated by my hand slapping the bed. That does not work. At all. Maybe I’m overbearing. Maybe if I didn’t ooze desperation. What if I played hard to get? You know. Try some reverse-psychology. “Sadie, my dear, don’t even think about climbing into this bed. You are not welcome! See how you like that!” Sadie tosses me an I-couldn’t-care-less glance and saunteres out of the room, tail erect. Seems she liked that just fine.

I resorted to mental telepathy. 

I laid in bed forming precise pictures in my mind. I imagined Sadie walking through the bedroom door. I saw her leaping onto the bed, lying down next to me, and resting her head on my tummy. A feeling of honey thick warmth flowed over me. Within a minute or so my eyes were startled open by Sadie actually jumping onto the bed! Just as I has visualized! She nestled next to me and extended her head across by tummy. About 30 seconds later she up and left. It wasn’t long, but it was wonderful. And, try as I might, telepathy never again worked.

Next up—frozen Gerber’s Baby Food. 

I know what many of you savvy dog people are thinking: Why doesn’t she try to condition Sadie to have a positive emotional response to snuggling in bed? I considered trying this approach using her favorite treat, freeze dried liver. But the thought of liver dust clinging to my sheets was too high a price. Apparently I have limits. This was news to me. Alternatively I took frozen jars of beef baby food to bed. But, instead of employing classical conditioning, really, I just bribed her.

“Hey Sadie, see what I have?” I’d call and show her the jar of baby food. She’d fly onto the bed. Slam her body against mine. Lick the jar clean. Step off the bed, and walk out of the room. Well, it was nice while the baby food lasted.

My Twitter friend, author Edie Jarolim aka @WillMyDogHateMe, has written a book by the same name and has a new book soon to hit the bookstores–Am I Boring My Dog?  These are not merely clever book titles or idle questions. I really worry about this stuff. Does Sadie hate me? Am I’m boring her to tears. Why else won’t she nestle with me?

Out of desperation, I signed Sadie and I up to meet with an animal communicator at the Psychic Horizons Center. The center is located on the ground floor of an apartment building near the downtown Boulder Pearl Street pedestrian mall. On Wednesday evenings they offer walk-in sessions, first come first served. To be sure we secured a place on the sign-up sheet, Sadie and I arrived a little early.

We got off to an inauspicious start.

Assuming we were entering an empty waiting room, I just yanked open the front door. But, the room was not empty at all. About twenty people were sitting utterly motionless in a circle with their eyes cast down staring at the floor, chanting. It took a Sadie a nanosecond to assess this scene as “weird and scary” and to cut loose a stunning display of full-throated “Rrrruf. Ruf. Ruf. Ruf. Rrrrruuuhhhh. Ruf!” and a lunge or two for good measure.

The meditation session aborted, a kindly bearded man escorted us to a “reading room” and told us to wait for the animal communication specialist. If nothing else, these people knew how to roll with the punches.

Soon Anne, our animal communicator, tapped lightly on the door, and asked if she could come in. Sadie greeted her with a more muted “Rrruff. Ruf. Ruf.” and dispensed with the lunges entirely. Anne asked me for my name and Sadie’s and how old Sadie was. Then she said, “Give me a moment to center and tune into Sadie. We’ll see what she has to say.” 

Fine. Good. Sadie sniffed around and extracted Kleenexes one by one from the box on the floor.

Without prompting from me about Sadie’s standoffishness, Anne reported, “Sadie says she needs alone time and privacy. I think that’s because she’s brought some trauma into this life from past incarnations. Being as young as she is, she needs time to process her emotions, otherwise she feels overwhelmed. As she grows up, she’ll feel more confident and want to be closer.”

Stunned silence. Ah, okay.

“Sadie says she would like for you to stop worrying and give her the space she needs.”

“Is this making any sense?” Anne queried.

I have no idea how Anne received her information or where she got it from. Maybe it was just dumb luck that she was so spot on. And, I’m not sure what I think about reincarnation. But, no matter. From that moment on, I surrendered. I stepped off the roller coaster.

Taking what Anne said at face value, Sadie’s behavior began to make more sense to me. I found myself feeling more empathy for her and feeling a little less sorry for myself. I began to recast myself from the role of “unrequited lover” to that of “spiritual friend.”  Maybe I can help Sadie by both giving her the space she needs and keeping the door open for connection when she wants it.

So, for bedtime, Sadie made it clear that she wants her own blankie with her own pillow on her own sofa in her own room. And, that’s exactly what she has.

I also discovered that placing a pillow in the middle of the couch in the den allows Sadie to be close without being too close. The pillow is sort of a friendly fence. Every now and then, while I’m sitting at one end of the sofa and Sadie is laying at the other, she nestles her head into the pillow inches from my arm. That is so sweet. Sometimes I can’t resist stroking her velvet cheek. Most of the time, lately, she doesn’t budge.

Of course, I still long for cuddles, and, occasionally, Sadie surprises me. Just the other night I was sitting on the floor resting my back against the couch watching It’s Me Or The Dog. Little Ms. Sadie settled down on her doggie bed next to me and ever so lightly rested her head on my arm. Heaven! I didn’t dare move for the whole hour.

And, envy still stings when I read tweets about doggie snuggles or see Sadie’s friends lean against and nuzzle their moms and dads.

Funny, I’m just now remembering something I learned over a decade ago at a Buddhist meditation retreat (and, soon forgot in the turmoil of everyday life). Sympathetic Joy—taking pleasure in the joy of others and wishing them even more joy! Now, if that’s not an antidote to envy, I don’t know what is.

That Sadie girl of mine. She certainly has life lessons up her paw for me. I’m reminded of something I heard, I forget from whom—We don’t get the dogs we want, we get the dogs we need. And, might I add—We get the dogs who need us.

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17 Responses to “My Dog Is Just Not That Into Me”

  1. Sadie is very lucky to have someone who cares so much about her!

    My Caffeine, who we brought home at about 12 weeks, is not a cuddler. She wants to be near, wants to sleep on the bed, but is happy to be at arm’s length and will approach, nudge, and then roll onto her back for her belly rub. We refer to her as the “Princess,” just like you do with Sadie.

  2. First off, great post, thanks for writing.

    Second, my first dog, Lady (ugh I effing hated that name), was the same way. I picked her out of a litter of Dalmatians because she fell asleep in my lap. That was the last time I held her without getting bite marks.

    My current dog, Juno, is the cuddliest little Am Staff ever. Maybe it’s an issue of the breed, but I prefer to believe that dogs have personalities, little quirks beyond pure animal savagery. (Yes, I live in Boulder, it’s rubbing off on me). It makes them special and sounds like Sadie will be Sadie :).

    Anyway, rock on!

  3. Edie Jarolim says:

    It’s so hard to accept our dog’s natures, not to project our desires and needs onto them; I can completely relate to this post. I know that Frankie adores me and only me — I know that now, after months of being convinced that I couldn’t possibly be a good caretaker because I was clueless about dogs — but he’s not a gratuitous cuddler. Sometimes he’ll sit next to me on the couch but when I stop scratching behind his ears or otherwise ministering to him he’ll leave – as though that’s all he wanted from me. At night, he rarely cozies up to me. It’s so random, in fact, that I keep trying to figure out a common denominator; I often wonder if he’s not feeling well when he does cuddle.

    And yes, it was such feelings of inadequacy that inspired me to write Am I Boring My Dog — which I thank you for mentioning. I’m afraid I didn’t write another book called Will My Dog Hate Me, however (wish I was that prolific); it was just an alternative title to Am I Boring My Dog.

  4. How old is Sadie? My dog Charlee jsut turned 10. For years she didn’t like to be touched. Never slept on the bed, but now she will enjoy handing for a while before she settles down, usually close. My Collie Finn is a short termer, then he moves on. But we call the two visitor dogs “arm pit dogs” becuse that is how close they want to be. The herding dogs just don’t do cuddles all that well. Dog in my life usually don’t like to cuddle a whole long time.I find it annoying and prefer the herders idea of closeness. Same with the labs who stay here and dot on my every move. Drives me nuts. I had a GSDx who would NOT sleep in the bedroom, but he thought he had a job to do and that meant being in the middle of the apartment where he could see and hear everything. We joked and called it double secret protect. They are all different, try not to take it personally.
    I dont’ think any amount of baby food would entice Charlee to sleep in the bed, it is just not who she is. But she will “sometimes” and usually it is when she does not feel good. My little service pup is a mega snuggler and I have to force myself to have him sleep in the crate so he won’t bond with me tooooo strongly. That is tough!He is like a stuffed animal.

  5. I have three dogs. Nigel is the biggest cuddler (he’s a Skinny Brown Dog). Enzo is the second biggest cuddler (American Pit Bull Terrier). Now Roxy, (Border Collie/Aussie) only ever cuddles for about 35 seconds before she up and moves away to be alone or to grab a tennis ball (since she has my attention). I believe that we do get the dogs that we need, and who also need us. I have learned from each of my dogs very special lessons.
    Roxy has taught me how to be a better trainer and less of a control freak.
    Nigel has taught me how to deal with fear in dogs.
    Enzo (a “foster failure”) has taught me PATIENCE PATIENCE PATIENCE since he came to me with severe SepAnx that took months to turn around.

    I think you should consider getting an APBT or AmStaff for GUARANTEED cuddle fests. Enzo would love to sleep in my bed at night but Roxy will not allow it even though she prefers to sleep on the floor right next to me. Nigel sleeps in my bed with me every night (please don’t tell anyone!) and often we fall asleep spooning. To me, that is pure joy.

  6. Ok..since Kendra wrote about spooning first, here comes a true confession. Sometimes…I wake up and find my Smooth Cllie with his head on my pillow and our backs are lined up straight from head to tail. (facing away from each other) The first time it happened, I woke up all shades of confused,because I didn’t realize it was a dog. You know those first minutes before you are really awake? Then we both started bolt uprate and looked at each other horrified. LOLOLOLO It would make a funny movie scene. Next few times he did it, I let him stay, but I ,moved over. But it still kind of creeps me out. it is not spooning exactly because our backs are to each othe.

  7. barrie says:

    Awww I tweeted that when Fancy was sick and she was a cuddler of major proportions as is every malinois I’ve ever met with their own people. She slept on the pillow by my face and I still reach for her in the middle of the night :-(
    My jack is the spooner. An ex-boyfriend once referred to Brit as the spooningest dog ever 😉 But it is also very obvious that she is just always cold and is just a heat leech which makes it much less special that she is such a cuddler.
    Jellybean was the snuggliest puppy ever and has slept on the bed since 8 weeks but until fairly recently she would curl up against me while I was watching TV but move out of reach if I actually petted her. I think a lot of that is her allergy/itchy issues so the more handle we get on that the more into being petted she is. I think it just didn’t feel good to her for a long time and Fancy also might have been “telling” her that I was off limits because I have noticed a lot of change since Fancy’s death.

  8. My gang have not all been cuddlers — and sometimes, their cuddling rhythms are distinctly different from mine. It really will go easier on you if you can flow with that rather than against it. 😉
    Casey at 14+ is the old man English Cocker, and he can’t get through the day without his morning and evening cuddle. He also likes to sleep on the bed–but his spot of choice is at my feet. The cooler it is, the more likely he is to sleep on the bed. In high summer and on muggy nights, he is far more content on the floor next to the bed, and will move there even if he starts the night at the foot of the bed.

    M. at 7 is my princess ECS, who came to me two years ago just thrilled to suddenly have her own spot on the bed. But while some days her version of cuddling involves gluing herself to my left shoulder, her head on my head, as she’s gotten more comfortable in my house she’s also started exploring her own place to sleep after she gets her cuddle fix.

    Reuben, my second Gordon setter, HAD to sleep with me on the bed, his body stretched out full-length next to mine and his head or nearest paw across my chest. I tried valiantly to teach him to sleep quietly all night in a crate, and finally gave up after four years of being wakened at 3 a.m. Next to me in bed, he slept all night. In a crate, it was 6-5 and pick ’em. I needed more sleep!

    All of the others (Taryn, Jazz, Muni, Nola and Bard) were content sleeping in crates although they preferred sleeping on the bed. Try changing position in bed in the midst of a border collie sized-mix, three English Springer spaniels and a Gordon Setter. I love it when they cuddle, but I’ve learned that we all get along better when I let my gang members have their own spaces.
    Especially when it’s 90 degrees and 100% humidity. 😉

  9. Oh, how I can relate! My first dog was a very self-sufficient Sheltie named Shea. She liked a certain amount of attention, at certain moments. The rest of the time, she preferred to be left alone to survey her kingdom from the back porch. As someone who spent my whole childhood wishing I had a dog who would love me and cuddle me, it took me a long time to accept that she had different wants and needs. (I have no doubt that she loved me, of course, but her ways of expressing it didn’t fit in with my dream.)

    When I adopted my second dog, I wanted a cuddler! Thank goodness, I got one in Dannan.

    I also wanted to comment on your experience with the communicator. Wow, stories like that make me want to believe…

  10. Lisa Spector says:

    Wow, could I ever relate to this. It completely describes my yellow Lab, Sanchez. He is just not a cuddler and sometimes I even wonder if he really is a Labrador. The only time I can cuddle with him is when he is sound asleep. If he’s the slightest bit awake, he’ll get up and move. He not only won’t sleep in my bed, but he doesn’t even like to sleep upstairs where my bedroom is. It’s funny, when I have dog sitters stay at the house with him, I tell them that he never wakes me up in the morning, rarely sleeps in his bed in my bedroom, and doesn’t like to cuddle. When I come back home, they tell me stories about him that makes me wonder if we are talking about the same dog. He wakes them up with kisses in the early morning, sleeps in the bedroom, AND follows them everywhere around the house. I was slightly comforted when I left town for over a week and by the 5th or 6th day he started acting like his normal self. He even ducks if you try to pet his head. That being said, he LOVES his morning tummy rubs and his playtime with me. Sanchez is now 6, and it took me awhile to realize that this is just who he is and it makes him wonderfully unique. I love the quote at the end of your blog Deborah about us getting the dogs we need. So true!

    Lisa Spector,
    Co-Creator – Through a Dog’s Ear

  11. Erica Houck Young says:

    Oh man! Jack is not a snuggler at all. He will lay against you at times, but if you break the invisible line he has drawn for acceptable contact he will vacate the area looking violated.

    Then came Pearl, the Pit Bull. We all know how THEY are for snuggling..err.. smothering. I have the 2 extremes now and no happy medium. Sigh.

    I think I’ll live. 😉

  12. Lila (my very proper Lab/weim) commends your dogs sensible behavior.

    And so do I. Think about what you are seeing from perhaps a new perspective: You have fostered independence in a timid soul! Only folks experienced with the challenge of fearful dogs truly understand the size of this achievement.

    The cuddling and clinging we humans all seem to crave is … very primate. Do you really ever see multiple dogs engaging in the kind of behavior you’d like from your dog? Is it any more fair to the dog to be disappointed by her “lack of affection” than it is to be disappointed that she won’t use a spoon?

    Embrace what many paw-printed, be-slobbered, panted-upon, tail-whacked, jostled owners dream of enjoying for 20 minutes: affection of a sedate and sophisticated nature. It is no less genuine than the less refined. Different does not imply unequal. Different is just… different.

  13. I am so grateful that Lilly is such a cuddlebug. We often debate whether she is just naturally affectionate or whether we have somehow trained her to be so. While part of her fear rehab included breaking the attention-seeking cycle, which indeed does foster independence in a fearful dog, I’m happy to say that she is MORE than willing to show her affection when invited to do so.

    I wish I could loan her out for some puppy loving, but she tends to be aloof with non-mom or non-dad people. Otherwise, I’d be happy to share in the snuggling.

    Hope to see you soon at class, once the weather gets mild.

  14. […] walk along together. If we could walk hand-in-paw, we would. That’s how sweet it feels. Sometimes my not-so-cuddly girl lays her head on my knee […]

  15. Jim G says:

    Thank you for writing a super wonderful piece. You articulated so well my exact relationship with my dog, and made me feel much better about it!

  16. Alyssa says:

    What a wonderfully written piece! I enjoyed this story very much, I evn burst out laughing a few times. Like Sadie my dog Jedda seems to want her own space, just on My couch and My bed, heaven forbid I get close to her on either or…. She starts sneezing on me on purpose… Smooth tactic I suppose as it works Everytime!

    Thank you for this magnificent story… I no longer feel like I’m the only person who’s dog isn’t that into them.

  17. ISABELLA says:

    Great story . really opened my eyes a bit. my 8 month old puppy lately seems like he’s not into me. and, I admit, i’ve gotten a bit frustrated and angry. One time, as bad as it sounds, I actually yelled at him, “why won’t you do what I want you to do?!” (which was to sit in my lap and snuggle). I’ve never felt like such a horrible person in my entire life. i thought it was because I was the primary caretaker of him in my family meaning i gave him the food and the walks, but that meant I also gave him the medicine and the pills and the baths. i thought he had had too many bad experiences with me. like sadie, he greeted me happily when I came home, but then went off somewhere else once that was all over. and now i am jsut thinking that “8 months? He’s a teeneager puppy now.” and i’ve been thinking that it’s jsut a phase. I just hope that your animal communicator was right and Domino will someday be the dog I long for, one who snuggles and loves on you. I will give him time to grow and i’ve pledged not to yell at him anymore to the best of my ability. But you are correct in every way: “we don’t get the dogs we want; we get the dogs we need.” he has taught me patience (more or less), responsibility, love, and companionship. He’s given me all this, and now, as I write this, I understand: I need to give him what HE needs–time and space.

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