Cali’s best friend, Maisy, a young poodle, is a bit shy. When she sees strangers, she gets nervous — especially if the people have a dog with them. Sometimes she can’t help herself: She barks at them.
Cali is the complete opposite. When she sees strangers, she thinks it’s the best thing ever. She wriggles with joy and drags her mom over so she can say hi.
Recently, I had the two of them on a walk. We encountered several other people.
- The first time, Cali was busy looking for peanuts under a tree where our neighbor feeds the squirrels and, quite uncharacteristically, she ignored the person. Maisy looked nervously at him, then at Cali, and she, too, started sniffing around in the snow.
- Next up, a friendly 20-something guy. Cali saw him from a block away and started getting excited. He reached out a hand to pet her and stopped to say hello. Maisy stuck close to me, watching carefully. She started a “woo…” but when she realized that Cali wasn’t scared, she stopped mid-woof. She stretched her nose out to sniff the guy but ducked back when he reached to pet her.
- Finally, we met a third person. Cali again said hello, all wags and wiggles. This time, Maisy watched for a moment, then very cautiously poked her nose in to sniff — and say hello.
On the way home, we passed a couple of people who were shoveling snow, and, again, Maisy thought about barking. “Woo…” — and reconsidered. She held her head up and walked past, looking pleased with herself (while checking to make sure Cali was close by and still thought things were okay).
Maisy’s still nervous on walks when Cali isn’t there. But watching her watch Cali and think about how to respond was interesting. She showed me that dogs do learn from one another — I mean, learn something other than where the muddiest digging spot is in the back yard, how to deconstruct a toy, and the best strategy for rolling in sand to ensure maximum fur coverage.
And perhaps Cali has a great future as an emotional support dog — for other dogs.