We all like to be recognized for who we are. Some years ago I went to a woman's house to buy her car. We discussed details and filled paperwork in her kitchen. She had two large mixed breeds and I've always been comfortable around strange dogs. I crouched in her kitchen letting her dogs swarm me with wagging tails and panting grins. I sweet talked them and knew exactly where they liked to be petted. The woman was taken aback. "I've never seen that. Those dogs don't like men," she said.
This past January I was at the vet's office and met a different woman's two dogs. We were loving it up like lost relatives (the dogs and I, not the woman and I) and she too said she'd never seen the like. "Those dogs don't like men." Yet there they were.
Yesterday I was at the horse farm and saw a dog I'd never seen there before. I was with a group of people but made eye contact with this cute pooch. Perhaps a hundred feet away she looked at the group, ears up. I made the dripping water sound on my cheek and she noticed. As the group moved off, I stayed in place and the little dog circled wide, eyes still on me. I made "verbal invitation noises," turned sideways and crouched down. She came right up, sniffed me, gleeful to be petted, pleased I knew the "right spots."
The woman with whom we were working called out, "That dog doesn't go near anyone!" But the little pooch in her cute jacket stayed pressed against my leg until to catch up to the group I pulled myself away.
Author Spencer Quinn writes detective stories with the twist that hard-boiled narrative comes from the detective's dog. Entertaining and funny, Mr. Quinn obviously understands canines. When the dog meets humans who know and like dogs, he says something like, "He was an expert with guys like me." And I wonder if that's what they really think.
But surely being recognized as safe and friendly, particularly by skittish animals, is extremely rewarding. It demonstrates how even without language, or perhaps because its absence, those perceptive and not swayed by outward appearance clearly see who the "good guys" are.