All I can say is I am glad I don’t need to greet strangers as dogs do. While on her daily promenades, our sweet and sassy Labradoodle, Juno spots potential playmates from quite a distance. Typically she crouches down, expecting surrounding plant growth to camouflage her quite visible self to the approaching dog. The two come closer, slowly and cautiously at first. Sometimes both freeze; other times one simply charges, not aggressively, but quickly. When close they don’t usually touch; one circles the other, often several times. Then it’s on to stage two.
Now they extend paws, and yes, one nose investigates the other’s rear (thank goodness humans don’t do this–can you imagine!). Juno sometimes raises a rear leg to generously assist the other’s enquiry. Then it’s on to stage three. There is a one in four chance that play may ensue. They will often run, fast and furious, along the path, beside the path, through human legs sometimes at very high speed. If they tussle physically one will try to stand higher than the other. It’s all a test, not so much of strength but of intent.
All I can say is I am glad I don’t need to greet strangers this way. It would be so tiring. I would likely stay home. It sure seems to work well for dogs however. The social triage routine seems to be consistent across the species, and frankly, for the most part, it works, and it works well. Personally seeing Juno play with other dogs is a highlight of my day, my principal entertainment. It makes me smile and my heart to sing. Her breeder described her as sweet and sassy from the get-go and this still rings true. She usually returns home for a deep sleep gratified for both exercise and play which may continue in the afternoon with others, or tomorrow with the same friends, all seemingly satisfied with life and whatever canine love looks like.
In a somewhat imaginative and playful sense I wonder if we humans can learn anything from dogs in community. Could our political debates become more enjoyable? I recall the Queen’s comment recently as the G7 met in Cornwall, UK. As the leaders gathered for a group photo she said to them “are you supposed to look like you’re enjoying yourself?” Possibly one is not supposed to enjoy oneself when serious business is on the table. I wonder if such conversations are always laden with fear, anxiety and furtive loathing, who would ever consider the pursuit of political or senior bureaucratic leadership positions? Only the sociologically or psychologically unhealthy candidate need apply to join what then becomes a constant struggle for power and attempted domination of others. Remember DT – winners and losers!
Millions of global citizens place great trust in the forthcoming COP-26 United Nations[\1] gathering in Glasgow, Scotland. The hope is that a truly global conversation can produce an effective negotiated global change in practice leading to a sustainable planetary stewardship. I have attended two such gatherings in 2002 (Johannesburg) and 2005 (Montreal). Based on my memory of these I must say to everyone, modify your expectations. While I have interviewed a senior UN staffer who was present in the room during the Paris 2015 negotiations I remain very skeptical about the possibility for real and substantial change. To those who suggest that change comes best top-down, and based on my experience in the western regions of North America, I have more hope for local, municipal initiatives. Closer to home seems to wield greater effect given adequate local engagement. At the global level, there are so many vested interests which may be invisible during the formal sessions but operate dynamically and constantly in the hallways and back rooms in global meetings. That said, COP-26 is our best global forum which deserves our cautious attention.
Closer to home protests are erupting across Canada as a small though organized vocal population refuse to accept any limitations of personal freedom in relation to vaccines and other pandemic measures. Fueled by the People’s Party of Canada and others on the far right, the demand is simple and clear. We have the right to choose what goes into our body and the right to move about and associate with who we wish, as we so choose. It’s ironic that these folks are pro-choice regarding pandemic matters where in other situations, especially regarding women’s reproductive health they anything but. In one setting they are pro-life, though where pandemics are concerned they care little for the lives of others.
So what can dogs teach us as we find our place in and our way through the tougher conversations of life? Well approach is important. It takes time, is negotiated, practiced and refined over time. Encounters intensity and mature as conversations evolve. What starts on social media could lead through blogs and other opinion pieces to extended conversations, publications and social forums. Like dogs, humans are social beings, even the most introverted human personality types need others to express and test ideas and to seek common ground. Not all of us can participate in all conversations. Sometimes our life circumstances make certain tough conversations emotionally threatening. Juno will often for no apparent reason refuse to meet another dog. She knows something I don’t.
What I see in Juno is a wonderful playfulness, the ability to enjoy the company of most other dogs, to enjoy the community, and smile. Does she laugh? I don’t know. I love to laugh myself and I love to play. Now in my seventh decade I play more than I think at any other time in my life. My wife will often say “why do you do these things, tease people, exaggerate stories . . .” Well it’s my kind of play. To that end I have established a new social group originating from Kamloops: The Fellowship of the Dreadfully Earnest. I will write more about this at another time. Suffice to say I am the lone and most influential member. I have not decided if dogs might be included. I have not yet scheduled a first meeting but (seriously) one person has inquired. We shall see what happens, as the world it seems “goes to the dogs” and rightly so.
 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)