A Pack of Friends or One at a Time? (2014)

A Pack of Friends or One at a Timeby Andrea Chilcote

There’s a saying I love to share, just to watch the puzzles form on listeners’ faces as they try to decipher the message. It goes like this:

“One dog, you have a dog. Two dogs, you have half a dog. Three dogs, you have no dog at all.”

The point, of course, is that due to pack behavior, the closeness of a human’s relationship with a companion dog depends on how many dogs there are. When there are several, you don’t have one-on-one relationships — you live with a pack. My neighbor observes this behavior in her husband and his two grown sons, with whom he is very close. When they’re away, she has a husband. When one son is present, she says she has roughly half a husband and when all three are together, she laments (but with a smile), that she really has no husband at all.

Even though I work with people day in and day out, am socially adept and enjoy interaction with others, I’m an introvert by nature. That just means I get my energy by being alone or with one very close, significant other. I expend energy in my work and in social interactions, and need time in nature or with one close (and quiet) friend to recharge. Extroverts, on the other hand, gain energy by being with people. I often tease a strongly extroverted colleague about the time she told me, in all seriousness, that she couldn’t wait to relax on a Jimmy Buffet cruise with 200 of her closest friends. “200 close friends?” I exclaimed. I could not imagine (though this was before Facebook) having that many friends, let alone consider being with them all at once “relaxing.”

This introvert/extrovert concept is complex, because we need different things from groups than from our one-on-one relationships. In this world of never-enough-time, I tend to covet and protect time alone with special pals, even to the point of (I confess), sometimes resenting when well-meaning others join us. As an introvert, I tend to let the “pack” do its pack thing, with me on the fringes as a lone wolf. I can easily lose connection and drift away into my own thoughts while they carry on as a unit.

Susan Cain’s new bestseller Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking  does a beautiful job of helping introverts understand themselves a bit better and nudges their extroverted friends, partners and colleagues to consider a different way of interacting with them. Take her quiz to assess your own preferences.

If you need the absence of connection, the solitude of your choosing, to build the energy to connect with important others in your life, consider the choices you are making. Do you go along with crowd, later feeling exhausted or even resentful that your bucket is empty? Or do you make time for quiet, alone or with a quiet confidant? Honoring these core needs contributes to the quality of our lives.

“One of the ways you can tell if you are introverted is that you need time to recharge your batteries and decompress after you spend time with others.”– The Introverted Leader by Jennifer Kahnweiler

Dangerous Conclusions

by Andrea Chilcote

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman wDangerous Conclusionshere Andrea is a weekly blogger. 

It was finally Saturday night. Oh, I love my life with all of its busyness, but I was ready to free my mind, and relax on the physical front. Arthur and I were headed out to an early dinner, to be followed by a date with friends to listen to a great new musician we’d just discovered.

Our twilight drive was interrupted by a swerve and fast braking, a tribute to my race car driver husband’s reflexes. What was it? A rabbit? No!

“Arthur, that was a puppy!  Turn around now!” And so began the drama.

This story is not about rescuing a dog, although we did that, of course. The Chihuahua would not have made it through the night with cars and coyotes all around. Mine is a simple story about judgment and assumptions.

When I retrieved the well groomed and friendly dog from the busy street, my first disappointment was that his collar bore no tag. Still determined after driving through neighborhoods inquiring (to no avail), we drove to the nearest 24 hour vet clinic to have him scanned for a microchip. No chip was found. By some stroke of luck, one of the nurses fell in love at first sight, scooped him into her arms, and assured me she would look after him until his owner came forward. That is, if one did.

We went on our way, and had a nice (though much later) dinner. We were even able to meet our friends for the last few songs of the performance. But I was distracted by the thought that this dog had been purposely dumped.

I’m jaded by what I know about the enormous amount of companion animals discarded each day. As the night wore on, that thought, my assumption that this one was abandoned, solidified into a conclusion.

Just before going to bed, I got a text from my friend and rescue “mentor,” Marie. She asked me if I had put up signs. “No,” I said. I didn’t tell her that I had concluded someone whose dog had no tag or chip probably didn’t want him back. Marie told me that 75% of lost dogs are found due to signs. I promised her I would post them in the morning. And, I half-heartedly followed through with six signs.

When I had received no calls by mid-day Sunday, my conclusion had grown into a belief. I climbed the ladder of inference, influenced by my past experiences. I believed that anyone who missed his pup would search relentlessly, and surely would have come upon one of my signs. At least, I thought, this was one of the lucky ones. That kind nurse would not let the dog succumb to the fate of most.

By Monday morning the event was out of sight and mind. And then the phone rang.

“Did you find a Chihuahua?” The anxious man didn’t even wait for a reply. “And does he have a golden brown coat and a silver collar with a tiny blue bell?”

“Yes!” I exclaimed, quickly re-orienting myself. “Yes. Your dog is safe,” I said. I fought tears.

It turns out that the man had been posting a “lost” sign in the same grocery store window where I had taped a “found” sign. He clearly loved his dog, and said he had prayed that he was alive since the moment he squeezed through the fence of his elderly father’s home. He had been frantically searching for him since Saturday night.

Our world view limits us. That pup might never have found his way back home had I allowed my mental models of how people too often behave toward animals to influence my motivation.

And as precious as the little dog, Indy, was, this story is not about him. It’s about our moment by moment opportunity to be open to learning that there’s more going on than our limited perspective takes in. If we can give even the slightest benefit of the doubt, miracles reveal themselves.