Today I want to tell you a humorous story that wasn’t very humorous at the time it was happening. (I told this story in my newsletter, so if you read that, this will be a repeat showing!)
I flew back to Georgia last Thursday to buy some service and protection dogs for my clients. The trip was planned with very short notice. Now, I’m a planner who likes to plan things with as much notice as is possible, partially because I’m a big guy who likes to sit in an aisle or window seat. What I never, ever want is the middle seat.
But on the way back from Georgia, the plane was entirely full and there were no open aisles or windows. I had no choice but to book a middle seat. I was willing to pay some decent money to upgrade to first class just so I wouldn’t need to sit in the middle, but it happened anyway. The whole way down the walkway I was saying to myself, “Please let these be very small people, so we’re not bumping elbows.” Sure enough, I get to my row and it was two other big dudes, one in the aisle and one at the window.
I sat down in the middle and turned to one of the other guys, and asked him how tall he was. He looked at me angrily and said, “Six foot four.” Obviously the airlines don’t do a great job of keeping tall people in different areas. This guy was pretty angry and huge—and I even saw a military backpack under his seat. So I squeezed into the middle as much as I could, trying not to bug this dude. I didn’t want to get beaten up.
Once we got in the air, the person in front of this guy leaned his seat back a little bit. The big dude started flailing around and cursing. Every time I happened to brush up against him, he started cursing again. I had no idea what to do. Any sort of movement from anyone around seemed to immediately set this guy off. If we’d been anywhere else, I might have said something or just moved away—but I was stuck in a tin can for five more hours next to him! It was scary.
About half an hour into the flight he got up and stood next to the bathroom, which caused a bit of a ruckus. I think they eventually put him in one of the seats reserved for the crew, because he never came back and I know there wasn’t a single empty seat on that plane.
When I first sat down, however, this guy was really making me angry. He made me feel . I didn’t want to sit there any more than he—or anyone else around us—did, but I did it anyway. For some reason, though, he threw a tantrum.
But this made me think about a lot of the dogs I work with. As owners, it’s easy for us to assume that our dogs are just being jerks or doing stupid stuff for no reason. Oftentimes, however, we don’t realize what’s actually going on beneath the surface. We don’t see the challenges our dogs are dealing with.
Recognizing this helped me put my experience into perspective and not be so angry with the guy in the next seat. I realized that I had no idea what was happening in this man’s life. Maybe he’s had some awful things happen recently, or maybe he has an issue that makes human contact difficult for him. I can’t know about any of those things—so maybe I shouldn’t judge.
Likewise, when you see your dog throwing a tantrum or being aggressive, there’s something going on underneath. Dogs don’t wake up in the morning happy and perfect and then suddenly decide to flip out. They act that way for a reason. As owners, we have a responsibility to figure out that reason. I probably couldn’t have helped the guy sitting next to me on that plane, but it’s completely within our power to help our dogs.