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What I learned from Jo Jo

» Posted by on Jul 9, 2011 in Blog | 1 comment

What I learned from Jo Jo

Jo Jo isn’t my dog. He lives near me but spends a lot of time around the five houses where I live. I named him Jo Jo because his owner is called Jo. I have no idea what his name is but he answers to Jo Jo. For the first few years I lived here I never let him in the house. Then one day, when it was raining (I’m in Ireland – pick any day of the year) he looked so forlorn outside I let him in. I dried him with a towel and he lay gratefully at my feet and went to sleep. The next time it rained he barked outside to let me know he was there and when I appeared with a towel he lifted up his paws to be dried.

Whichever room I am in he follows me to lie at my feet. When he wants some affection he sits by me with his paw on my knee or rubs his head on my hand. I never feed him and he refuses water. When I am going to bed I call him to the back door and he stands still while I hug him and say goodnight then out he goes into the night – who knows where. He is the perfect dog. I think he has a number of other houses on his circuit, and some of them do feed him, so he is well loved and well looked after.

Whenever I go for a walk he pops up from wherever he is and joins me. As he rushes towards me to greet me I swear he is smiling. We walk down to the new pier and when we come back he sits on the wall at the end of the entrance to the houses where I live (see picture) for me to hold him and cuddle him. I think, actually, he thinks he is fulfilling a need of mine – and maybe he is right.

But here is what I have learned from Jo Jo.

1.     If I don’t want to let him in when he barks he just goes away. And if I appear 10 minutes later to go for a walk he will still run to me delighted to see me. No grudges. No ‘why didn’t you let me in’. Just delight that I’m there.

2.     He has no loyalty to me. When the occupants of a small cottage return for a visit, I don’t see Jo Jo for days. He has no obligations. He goes where he pleases and where he is welcomed.

3.     He spontaneously gives and receives affection

I think of my friends and how I am in relationship with them. I would always be the one to contact people (‘you’re so good at keeping in touch’) so I decided that I wouldn’t contact people any more, I would wait for them to contact me. I waited for 6 months and no-one contacted me! I missed them. So I had a choice to make. Should I go on resenting that it’s always me who reaches out and making an issue of it when I spoke to them again. Or should I just delight in the friendship without counting who contacts whom?

I have one particular friend who I feel very close to. I know how dear I am to her yet I also know that she has absolutely no need of other people. If she were transported to an island and never saw people again it would probably be her idea of Heaven. She told me once that she had a very good friend who was continually upset with her because ‘you don’t act like a proper friend’. The friend wanted to see her regularly, speak regularly, do friend things together. Ultimately this other friend let the friendship go because she was continually feeling hurt. I could see exactly what she meant.When you feel close to someone and they don’t seem too bothered about you, even thought they are truly delighted whenever you do speak or meet, it’s hard when they profess how much you mean to them.

It seems to work for Jo Jo and me. I don’t have any expectations of him and he certainly doesn’t have any of me. And because of that, spontaneous affection can be given and received freely. All pain is caused by expectations not being met. We have a need – we expect others to meet that need – and we judge them when they don’t and make them the cause of our pain. Intimate relationships are different in that there is usually a contract of some kind that both people agree to and are constantly re-negotiating. But we don’t have contracts with friends do we? or do we?

We could all learn from Jo Jo.

1 Comment

  1. I love this transposition of feelings and empathy for Jo Jo (who doesn’t seem to be confused having two names!). I always felt my Dad had empathy with our old dog Ginny, although if you’d have asked him he’d have denied it. He’d say he hated dogs. He would stroke her compassionately. I think she understood his loneliness. And they both needed the other.

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