the parable of the man magnet

This is a post about dating and relationships.

So I got this dog:

He’s 63 pounds of 7 year old hound-retriver mix, whom I rescued from the shelter where he lived for 5 years (!!), after being taken from a home where some offensively, criminally irresponsible parents let their sociopaths-in-training teenage boys burn him with cigarettes.

His name is Greenbean – not that he cares. He walks poorly on a leash, he’s still trying to learn to play fetch, he doesn’t respond to his name if there’s anything interesting to smell, and he’s convinced my 13 year old cat is a squirrel.

But he’s got big black eyes and after I feed him dinner (by hand, one mouthful at a time, as a reward for eye contact in response to his name – it takes 20 minutes) he gazes at me with adoration and gratitude. This afternoon after our walk, he bolted, yanking the leash from my hand, and RAN… right to the back door, where he waited eagerly for me to let him inside, so he could sleep on the couch. How cute is that?

Plus? He’s a man magnet. Every time I walk (read: wrestle on a leash) him downtown, at least two guys will stop and say, “That’s a beautiful dog.” Men give me (bad) advice about what to do when he pulls on the leash. They ask what kind of mix he is. “Wow, he’s strong!” they tell me as he lunges at their dog – and they say it warmly, as if to say, “Look at that woman managing that powerful animal!”

The funny part is, at the shelter they told me he didn’t trust men and boys, because of what happened in his past. He has had no issues with any man while he’s been with me.

This is the lesson dogs have for us: a creature that was tortured and helpless now draws affectionate attention from the very group he once feared with reason.

His history has left its mark. There’s a hole in his nose that goes right through to his nasal cavity, and his ears are torn up and tattered.

But he’s got me to keep him safe now, and because he’s building trust and respect with me, his pack leader, because he’s learning that I’ll protect him if someone tries to hurt him, he can do anything. He’s free because he’s safe.

The tricky part about being human is that you have to be your own pack leader. You have to know that you can keep yourself safe, stand over your own emotional center of gravity and stay stable but responsive.

When you’ve got that, you can open yourself back up to new experiences, without fear, without reservation, trusting that if you fall, you’ll be safe. You’ve got YOU to protect you.

I’ll write another post soon about strategies for building that. But I bet you could figure it out on your own if you sat and thought about it for half an hour. “How do I keep myself safe and stable while also trying the unknown?” you ask. The answer is there inside you – it’s inside all of us – and all you have to do is find it.

And when you have that internal knowledge of security, you’ll find yourself walking down the street drawing comments about how beautiful you are. Even with your battle scars. You’ll be a man magnet.