Still learning from Benny’s barking

Benny’s barking still has the power to shatter my sense of stability… when that sense is particularly shaky!

One of Benny’s favorite times to bark is when I’m on the phone. I still really don’t understand dogs. I like to believe it’s because he knows I’m giving attention to someone he can’t see. Or maybe he hears me talking and thinks he’s talking back to me. Or maybe he wants to talk on the phone. Whichever, it is reliably irritating. It’s led me to avoid talking on the phone as much as I might want to.

Usually, I find a way to carry on a conversation. I either shut him out of the room (which doesn’t always work, because he might just stand outside the door and bark), or find a way to distract him. I’ve found two methods that seem to work:

  1. I can move into the room where his favorite toy is. It’s a stuffed bunny, bigger than him, that he LOVES to hump. Gross and perverse, but it shuts him up… and he’s happy!
  2. Or, I can sit by his food and coax him to eat. He sings when he eats this way. Really! He hums and chews… it’s adorable, and shuts him up.

(I know that these are probably totally counterproductive ways of dealing with a bad dog and that I need help, but bear with me!)

Last night I tried to talk on the phone, but when Benny (predictably) barked, instead of just dealing with it in one of these ways, it felt like something I simply could not withstand. I felt a surge of anger, rage actually, at my impotence to prevent him from barking at me. Of course, I took it out on the person I was talking to, ended the conversation before I wanted to and then sat bewildered on the couch trying to figure out what the hell just happened… and feeling… things.

Benny’s barking pierced the delicate sense of okayness I had been trying to maintain since receiving the first correspondence from my dad in 25 years earlier that day. The truth was, I wasn’t “okay.” I WAS feeling things… things without names, contradictory things, upheaval. But, I guess as I’ve done for 25 years, I had been trying to contain the turmoil.

But pretending not to feel is NOT “not caring” or not being attached. It’s denial. I had taken the first step in accepting my pain when I initiated contact with my father. My hope was (and is) that I can acknowledge that pain and let it go. Make it a memory. Put it in the past tense instead of carrying it around with me under cover of an “okayness” that has unconsciously influenced my relationships and approach to life all this time.

Benny’s barking was completely normal! My reaction to Benny’s barking was the signal that something else was out of the ordinary. Could it be that loss has been my constant companion? Can I mend that hole now with… what’s the antidote to loss? Love?

One response to “Still learning from Benny’s barking

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