I'd like to introduce you to the pending new addition to my family. Meet Bindy, a beautiful but nervous, 8-month-old Cairn terrier who was found in a drain two months ago, discarded and abandoned by her previous owners. Unloved. Unwanted.
The animal society described her as needing a quiet, loving home, with plenty of TLC and patience, with a tendency to urinate if frightened, but stressed this would pass once she learnt to trust and feel safe again.
My heart melted. I made the call. Floors can be washed if she pees. And Bindy arrives Sunday afternoon to join what I hope will be her forever home, and one which I will endeavour to make as happy, peaceful and loving as I possibly can. She also has a tendency to steal anything that she finds lying about, to take to her bed. The fosterer told me, as we spoke, that Bindy had just passed her by with a teaspoon. What a great incentive to up my housekeeping skills.
You see, my other dog is a submissive. She is stunningly beautiful with a heart of gold, but quite pathetic when we walk the fields daily and she encounters any other dog. She belly-crawls as soon as she sees them, rolls over onto her back, legs a-kimbo, and offers herself up as sacrifice. Thankfully, I have a swift boot to guard her in the event of a pending attack, and a firm voice to pull her out of that mind-set, lest she be eaten in one gulp. So in choosing a mate for her, I knew I could not go for a very dominant dog, because Keela would simply blend herself into obscurity. This I cannot allow, as Keela's home is her haven and I will not have her frightened in her place of safety. Hence Bindy's description seems like the right kind of dog for her - two submissives.
But of course this has got me thinking. Why IS it that I have ended up with, or chosen, two dogs who have submissive natures? My last dog who passed away a year ago was the same. Good, kind, obedient, and no trouble at all. Is it that I have a need to control? Have I, without realising it, exploited dominant traits by choosing submissive dogs? And if so, where did this need come from?
Are we hard-wired to become the people we are by the experiences we have known? Of course. It's what I've been banging on about all this time. So I referred back to my trusty books of knowledge to uncover the symptoms of a submissive person, and why they feel the need to kowtow to a Dominant. Or vice versa, why do Dominants feel the need to dominate?
Dominance is often driven by fear of being vulnerable, excluded, or rejected. So in order to counter-act that, you try to control your environment so that you are not threatened by others. Dominants hold their heads up high. They will sit on the higher of two chairs offered. They will expand their arms and claim their space, warning off any would-be challengers. By doing so, they are giving off an energy that says do not mess with me, I'll take you down. Once they have made their mark, and feel secure in their environment, they can then relax enough to be quite sociable and gracious. But put them in the presence of another dominant personality? They will falter. Challenge them at your peril. They will display mistrust and suspicion, often slating others in a vain attempt to regain authority. So the Dominant needs to rule every aspect of his environment, laying down the law, and lording it over others to puff himself up with a self-fulfilled importance. Dominants are often bullies by nature. They have to destroy you, be it verbally or emotionally, in order to feel superior.
Submissives, on the other hand, have little or no personality or sense of Self once they subject themselves to long-term contact with a Dominant. The Dominant saps them of any self-value. They require direction, orders, and need to be told what they can and cannot do. Their sense of worth has been eroded over time by the Dominant who has, by all accounts, taken ownership of them. They are told what to wear, how to behave, and are quickly reprimanded by silence or disapproval if they dare, on occasion, voice their own opinions which do not agree with the Dominant. They will be shot down, and silenced. Punishment will be swift, and the submissive quickly learns that avoidance of the Dominant's reprisals is important for a quiet life. There is a pecking order, and the Dominant will not tolerate defiance. It is your duty to obey the Dominant. Be warned. God better have a seat ready for the Dominant, and it had better be right next to Him.
In the animal kingdom, this is blatantly apparent. Take Keela, my dog, for example. She tries to make herself as small as possible when encountering fellow-members of her species. She cowers down, rolls over, exposing her neck to show compliance. In human form, the submissive would often sit in a hunched position, perhaps wrapping their arms around themselves, keeping their heads down, making little eye contact with the Dominant for fear of it being seen as a challenge. Keela does not do submissive with humans. She does submissive with her own kind. As do we.
So back to my question - have I inadvertently chosen submissive dogs over the years because I have a need to control? If so, have I felt out of control in other areas of my life that I now need to do this? I wouldn't like to think that of myself, but it's possible. And if I have, what am I afraid of? I'm not a bossy person. I'm laid back, easy-going, but I have a ferocious ability to roar and flare up if I feel an underdog is being abused. Underdog, or underhuman.
It galls me to see another life form being intimidated, bullied, or harassed. I am the defender of the defenceless. I am Superwoman to the weak. I am healer of the mentally lost. But put me in a room full of women preening and competing and bitching? I become a submissive, and I choose not to stick around too long. My confidence wanes in the light of dominant personalities. Strange, isn't it, really? Or have I just been wired up wrong?
I have used my superpowers to rescue Bindy. I have swooped in and saved her, and committed to making her life better. Better than what? The one she had? Or the one I had? It's an interesting question, and one I am kind of answering even as I write.
By pure deduction, can we stretch this a little further and ask ourselves, do we choose our partners in real life based on experiences of our past? They say we seek out partners that reflect our parents, that which we know, that which we experienced. My father is a Dominant, no doubt in my mind at all. I hated it, I hate it, and I will always hate it. Never allowed a voice, never having respect as an individual. Being made to feel inferior, and without true value. And my ex-husband? He was a submissive. A follower. A good man, but pliable. Safe. I chose him without thought, there were no calculations made when we hooked up. But at a subconscious level, I must have made the analysis, seen that he was the polar opposite of my father, and as my father and I don't see eye-to-eye, decided that my choice was the right one for me. Safe.
I have not yet met a dominant man here. In my own opinion, they don't exist. Every man I have met, socially, professionally, and romantically, have been too submissive for me. Too soft. But I wonder now, with this revelation, whether or not at a subconscious level, I dismiss dominant men from the outset, based on my past?
Perhaps the theorists are correct: I am searching for a masculine man like my father, but with respect and one who is prepared to submit his heart. And yet all I have come up with are submissives, period. I had one friend who was Dominant, but he lost my friendship eventually because he had no respect. It was his way or the highway. I chose the highway.
Universe, if you're listening tonight - I am changing my order. I want a dominant and strong manly man who has respect, and the ability to give great love. There you go. I'm waiting at the check-out for you.
So, Bindy, my little black angel, you are joining a psychologically challenging household, but I can promise you this - you may steal my spoons, you may pee on my floor - I have the mop at the ready. And you may be as gentle and nervous as you like. You won't be reprimanded for that, because I have great compassion, and great love, waiting for you.
We may, however, have to do something about your name... :-)