What My Dog Taught Me About the Importance of Space

He was the most adorable thing I ever saw in my life. His hair was the perfect mixture of white and brown strands. His nose was so cute, short, and round. His eyes were big and dark brown. He had the cutest little overbite.

He was given to me for my 8th birthday. When it came time for me to name him, I looked at the adorable brown and white Shih Tzu puppy and pondered. I thought of his physical features to see if anything, in particular, would inspire his name.

“He has a short nose, he has big brown eyes, and he has light brown and white hair… hm..”. His brown features reminded me of the cartoon character Charlie Brown. “Charlie… hm… let’s see if he likes it.”. I called the dog by his possible new name and he came running towards me.

I took that as his sign of approval and determined that “Charlie” would be the name of my new dog. Little did I realize that the dog couldn’t care less what I called him because he witnessed his previous owner hand be a bag of dog treats. I’m sure he thought “Charlie” was my way of saying “come get a treat!” but, my eight-year-old-self believed it was a sign.

I was obsessed

with Charlie. Every day of the first week that I owned him, when I came home from school, I would play with Charlie.

When Saturday came around, I knew what I wanted to do all day; Play with Charlie!

I kid you not, I spent the entire day picking up, running around with, petting, kissing, scratching, and playing with this dog. At some point, he just wanted to lay down. When I saw this exhausted puppy lay his head down on the ground, I laid down on my stomach to be face-to-face with him. I wanted to watch him as he relaxed like a good overly-obsessed owner.

I inched myself closer to his face and stroked his soft Shih Tzu hair. At this point, Charlie started to growl softly. I ignored this thinking that if I ask him what was wrong (like I would to a baby starting to whine) he would cheer up. Is that what happened? No.

Instead, the dog lashed out in an annoyed bark/growl mixed yelp and bit my nose. He got me good too; there was blood and I was very, VERY startled.

Believe it or not, this would not be the last time he bit my nose for my obsessive behavior. But as the months passed and I got to know more about the personality of my dog, I realized that his space was a big thing for him.

He liked to play and for people to pet him and scratch his stomach, but he also needed to be left alone. To roam around, sleep, and relax all by himself was a big part of what allowed him to appreciate the times that I played with him.

Space was a foreign concept to me at that age, but, as I got older, I realized that the dog made a good point.

He needed his space, but I did too.

I think it can be hard to remember that “space” is a critical element of a healthy relationship (especially in the beginning stages).

It used to seem like a total oxymoron to me. “How does being apart from someone help to strengthen a relationship?”. 

If you’re anything like me and tend to want to remain in constant communication with your partner, you may understand my logic at the time. But, understanding it doesn’t make it any less false.

I had to grasp the idea that space is what encourages individuality; the very individuality that unites you and your partner. It’s still not an easy thing for me to implement in my relationships, but acknowledging its rightful place helps me to set the stage for a relationship that encourages independence and trust.

Also, absence makes the heart grow fonder so that effect is pretty cool too.

If you find yourself struggling to implement space in your relationships (they don’t have to be romantic) it may be good to assess why.

We all need validation, support, encouragement, and love. Total reliance on others for these things, however, can quickly spoil good relationships.








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