Communication Quandary

A friend sent me a letter that is confusing. He is hurt and angry and it may be at me. But I don’t understand why. Maybe he is mad at someone else or mad at himself. He has trouble with his thoughts sometimes and with expressing himself. I have trouble expressing myself sometimes too. He feels so much, and I don’t know how to respond. He may not want to see me, and I am unable to see him now anyway. I cannot bring him treats or poke my nose in his face or hand. What can I do?

Wow. That is rough. Nose poking is a top tier communication technique. Do you think Puzzled could just get louder? That’s what I would do. I am pretty sure that people at some distance around the neighborhood can hear me when I have something important to communicate.

I’m not sure that the presence of a squirrel on the fence is something that the whole neighborhood needs to know about. Also, it is my observation that humans getting louder almost never helps them communicate better. You might think it would, but it seems like the louder they get, the less they hear.

Puzzled could talk faster. I can get in a whole lot of barks per minute when there is something important like a squirrel.

That is also the opposite of helpful. But it might work for Puzzled to try to slow things down. Like, they don’t even know why Angry is upset. There are plenty of things to be upset about in the world. Seems like it would be good to avoid assumptions.

Assume” makes a sum out of two things you can add together. Or something. I forget.

Maybe Puzzled could start by saying to Angry “You seem hurt and angry. I feel confused. I care about you. I’d like to talk.”

But they both have trouble expressing themselves, right? So maybe Angry can’t actually say what’s wrong.

Maybe so. But also Puzzled might start with thinking about what is the easiest way for Angry to communicate. Maybe email would give them time to think things through. If writing is hard, maybe Angry could leave a voicemail message in which they could talk without having to worry about being interrupted. Maybe Angry needs permission to say things which they might need to take back later because they didn’t really understand until they started talking.

Maybe Angry needs a chance to calm down. Like maybe they could go in a crate or lie down on a mat until they found their brains again.

It is possible that Dingbats are not the only ones that periodically have their brains fall out of their heads. Maybe Angry does need a chance to calm down. Maybe Puzzled should say: “You seem hurt and angry. I care about you. I’d like to talk when you feel ready.” If it were me I would also ask when they were going to be ready, because I do not care for waiting around. But I concede the possibility that Angry might not know that.

So Angry might never tell Puzzled about the squirrel on the fence?

It’s possible. Not everyone has your commitment to communication. About every little thing. At the top of your voice. All Puzzled can do is give an invitation, and try to make room for Angry to step up in the way that’s most comfortable. But it’s worth remembering that a lot of times people who act angry are actually scared, like the dogs who bark and lunge because they’re afraid another dog will come too close and hurt them.

I bark and lunge because I want other dogs to come play with me.

You’re special.

Thank you.

It wasn’t a compliment.

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6 thoughts on “Communication Quandary

  1. Ive missed you guys, Please post more often if you can! Give me some ideas for dog play during this isolation time? Thanks in advance. Love you both, and your transcriber, too.

  2. I talked with Angry by phone, and we had a few letters that crossed. Then he called me. We agreed that we are good friends. It is a difficult, vulnerable time. A little like lots of barking at seeing a squirrel and also lots of barking when there are no squirrels or when you don’t know when your human will be back home. It helps if I listen patiently, have lots of other dogs to play with (or see humans on Zoom), and make sure I get in the right amount of snacks and naps. I live with a very dear cat who helps a lot, but I have some great dog friends (not as talented as you).
    Thank you, with ear scratches and gentle woofs!
    Puzzled at human behavior but learning

  3. An update. “Angry” passed away this morning at 12:01. I expected this but am in the fresh and raw (no, not snacks) state of missing him and needing to run around chasing my tail to let out the anger at “losing” him. We were able to have some good phone conversations. He gave wonderful hugs, wrote stunningly beautiful poetry. I am glad that he helped me learn to listen better, to be in awe at life (squirrels and snacks!), and to keep going. Thank you, Wombat and Dingbat and Human for being you!
    Continuing to puzzle the awesomeness and other things, Carol

    1. We are very sorry to hear that you lost your friend, but glad that you were able to connect so deeply. We hope that you have dogs to snuggle for comfort, and are sending our very best wiggles from a distance. Please take care.

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