Our five-year-old dog, who had been pretty well-behaved since her puppy training, has recently decided that every time we leave her alone she’s going to, shall we say, moisten her surroundings. Because she clearly knows this is wrong, and slinks around the house as soon as we get home, we’ve been classifying this as vindictive, manipulative behavior, but I wonder whether it isn’t something else – whether, like most acting out, it isn’t an expression of simple unhappiness.
I can almost hear her reasoning. “It makes me so unhappy when they leave me. I’m sure if they knew how unhappy it makes me, they wouldn’t do it. But I can’t speak, so I’ll have to think of something else. I know! I’ll pee on the carpet. I know they don’t like it, but surely they’ll realize something is very wrong if a good girl like me does something bad like that.”
The thing is, of course, we know she’s unhappy. She frowns at us when we leave for work and assumes an expression of grave concern at any unexpected getting-ready-to-go-out.
Nor is there any way for her, as a dog, to understand that no matter how much she might wish otherwise, we have to go to work and we aren’t going to change our minds about leaving her on a Sunday so we can attend a friend’s wedding.
So the question is: when we encounter one of those situations in life that is what it is no matter how we feel about it, or in which the only way for us to express our feelings is to make a scene, hurt or cause discomfort to others, do we have the maturity to realize that what we want is not always relevant and keep our feelings to ourselves, or do we pee on the carpet?