Gracie ignoring the camera and person.
Learning the alphabet was hard work for me; once I learned it I found it had a lot of practical applications and my attachment to it causes me to prefer the title of this particular post to be Autism and Dogs. But I also have an attachment to trying to use language to attempt to communicate as clearly as possible.
If I called this post Autism and Dogs, I figured at least someone, somewhere would see that and click in, hoping to find a post about autistic dogs. That isn’t today’s topic and I’m loathed to mislead readers. (I am thinking about if my dog might be autistic though, so that post might happen later).
This post needs to be called Dogs and Autism. Sorry, alphabetical order. As handy as you can be, sometimes you get in the way of clear communication.
I may be quirky.
Part of me likes order, guidelines, clear expectations. Part of me likes living with an English Bull Terrier. There’s room for some psychoanalysis there, I’m pretty sure. For those of you who do not live with Bull Terriers, let me digress for a moment.
Usually, when I pull out the camera Gracie ignores it. She can ignore anything when she is of a mind to do so. Occasionally she even poses for the camera. Today, wanting to post updated pictures of the crew, I got the camera out expecting that as usually happens, the biggest problem would be getting Lil to not stick her nose into the lens as I tried to capture her image.
Gracie lounging on the couch prior to noticing the camera.
Gracie leaping up and running for her kennel after noticing the camera and deciding she wasn’t in a photogenic mood.
As soon as the camera was put away, Gracie came out and climbed up on the couch next to me, as if to say, “I’ve decided to forgive you, despite the fact you were acting like paparazzi – and in my very own home.”
Meanwhile, Lil sat politely and allowed her picture to be taken without sticking her nose in the lens. Also uncommon, but less dramatic.
Dogs have been constant companions and very literally, saving graces in my life. Like so many people, there were moments in the past where the best reason I could find for staying attached to this world was a concern for what would happen to my dogs if I suddenly were gone. I’ve long been drawn to the quirky, misunderstood dogs that have trouble finding homes.
It seems likely that my own life, as a quirky, misunderstood person, allowed me to empathize with these animals. In fact, I have always found the behavior of dogs specifically, and animals in general, easier to interpret and understand than the behavior of other humans.
Gateway to fitting in
(with non-judgemental, working-class drunks)
As a child, I found other children…juvenile. As I aged and my family moved, I studied other people as an alien trying to learn the natives’ habits well enough to not immediately be noticed as alien. Their dress habits were often uncomfortable; their talk skimmed the surface as did their interests, broad and shallow. One night I gathered with a group of ‘peers’ so we could celebrate our graduation from the mandated school system by drinking. I drank a bottle of lemon gin and fit in, the most I ever had. I had an epiphany, ‘maybe this is really all there is to passing as ‘normal’ – copy whatever behavior the group is doing – go along and don’t say anything.’ Also learned – drunk people are easier to get along with, as long as everyone is drinking and right up until the drunk fights start.
While I was less comfortable with drinkers than with dogs, I hung out with the drinkers for some years. Then I had another epiphany. I’d rather be abnormal and slightly alone versus spending my life with drunks. A choice I’ve only regretted on a handful of occasions when being drunk and oblivious suddenly sounds like a preferable state of affairs to being all too keenly aware of the pain in my immediate world that I can do nothing about: both my own and other people’s.
Vinnie waiting in his nest until I quit writing
After decades of living among the neuro-typical people of the world (don’t worry, we’ve developed that label for y’all out of fondness, not judgment) I’ve learned to cope by making sure I have downtime every day, some of it spent surrounded by dogs.
Vinnie the chihuahua-mix is the perfect size for holding when I don’t need to feel like I’m buried under a weighted blanket; the big dogs work admirably at times when I do.
And that is the upside for me, I realize, in living with an unpredictable Bull Terrier, a breed that also has zero sense of personal body space and a bizarre need to be touching a person when a person is in the room.
Gracie leaning against me while I blog – her usual post while I write
Some of you may have reached this point wondering, okay, but what does that have to do with Dogs and Autism. This post isn’t for you and that’s okay – the majority of the internet is filled with content that is designed for you. I’m pretty sure I saw a post on Facebook about a celebrity that you can go read right now. And I’m sure you know someone who is about to post a picture of a meal they’re eating – go ahead – go check that out.
For those of you who do see the connection, hang in there. Fitting in is like drinking a bottle of lemon gin; it starts out okay. Eventually, though you have to wonder if the type of community it earns you is really what you want, or if you aren’t better off finding a smaller group with interests that don’t need to be faked.
Sometimes, there won’t even really be enough of you who share the interest to count as a ‘group’ – that’s okay too. Don’t let the advertising fool you. It really is better to have one or two people who share a genuine interest to sometimes hang out with, than a room full that will show up anywhere there’s a party and you’re supplying the drinks.
Six people who have been paid to look at a camera while pretending to have fun together and drink
Note – the picture on the left is not real life. It’s just an advertisement.
And notice the dog – the only honest one in the picture – doesn’t want to be there.