Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Older Dog Wisdom: Peer Pressure

Tux and I were out walking the other day when he put his nose to the ground and walked a few steps. When he looked up, he had a small red leaf hanging from his ear. Much to my surprise, he didn’t try to shake it off. In fact, he looked quite rakish with his new dangly earring. His walk changed - he walked slower, prouder.

When we rounded a corner, a woman and her two large dogs were approaching. We had met them a week earlier and the dogs were polite. One of them started trash talking. It was only then that Tux shook off the leaf. No sooner had the earring flown off his ear than he lunged at the trash-talking dog. I’m not sure what had been said, but Tux definitely took umbrage with it. I’m sure, though, it had something to do with Tux’s new earring.

Whenever Tux does something out of the ordinary, I try to figure out if there is something to be learned from his actions. Tux felt good wearing his earring right up to the moment when that other dog made fun of him. Then, he shook off the earring. He obviously hasn’t learned that it’s okay to march to a different drummer. He allowed someone else to dictate how he should dress and what should make him feel good about himself. That is a very hard lesson to learn regardless of how old you are. I was sad to see him shake off his earring, it had added to his self esteem. I’d like to shake the other dog for making Tux feel self conscious about something that had made him feel special.

I suspect for we humans this begins as soon as we enter school. Peer pressure begins almost immediately. My four-year-old niece, who is in pre-school, has been allowed to choose how to dress every morning for some time. Some of her outfits have had her family members, her grandmothers, aunts, cousins, and mother, cringing. Out we go, though, with her dressed in purple striped leggings and orange print dress with a blue t-shirt over the dress. We all agree it will be a sad day when she begins dressing like her schoolmates. We’ll miss her individuality.

For a short time, Tux was where my niece is - proudly wearing his earring. Then he ran into the trash talking dog and graduated to where my niece will undoubtedly be when she enters primary school. It was a sad day.

There is, of course, nothing I can do about the blow to Tux’s self esteem. I’m hoping, though, that my niece is enough of an individual to withstand first grade peer pressure. Maybe with the help of her Mom and aunties, she’ll retain at least some of her unique sense of fashion. Her grandmothers, on the other hand, can’t wait for the peer pressure to begin.

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