October 20, 2014

Animals Are an Introvert's Superpower

As long as I'm leading with my dog, you'd never guess that I'm a shy, quiet person.

I had a really wonderful weekend filled with dogs, horses and friends old and new. As an introvert, sometimes I find too many social engagements draining, but where animals are involved I can be downright outgoing. As I babble non-stop about my dogs or my horse, one might never know that I am often nervous around new people or that I take a long time to let my guard down. It's one reason I gravitate toward writing, where I can express myself much more effectively and take the time to say what I mean. I can feel awkward or out of place in many settings, and sometimes have to talk myself into parties or events. I'll be the one in the corner, talking to the dog...

As much as I enjoy a quiet day at the barn with my horse, one of the perks of boarding is forming a circle of barn friends. These are the people that will keep an extra eye on your horse when you're out of town, lend you their fly spray if you've run out and most importantly, join you out on the trail or in the arena. Riding is not exactly the safest sport, and it's good to have company. I've been at my new barn for about two months now, but aside from the barn manager I haven't gotten to know anyone else so I was happy to share the arena with another rider on Saturday. She was working a young horse and I was just soaking up the gorgeous day on Coro's back. We were both doing our own thing, but we finished up at the same time and cooled our horses out together, making leisurely laps as we mutually praised our horses, patted their necks, and got acquainted by way of our equine histories. Despite riding different styles and disciplines, we found more in common than not, and I left the barn feeling so thankful for horses and the people that love them.

I didn't think I would ever be the type of person to start a meetup group, but when I discovered how many island dogs have found their way to Colorado, that's exactly what I did. Yesterday marked the very first Colorado Potcake Meetup at Elk Meadow Dog Park in Evergreen. Boca and I met two of her fellow potcakes from the Humane Society of Grand Bahamas and their nice people. We let the dogs romp in the fenced area before and after our loop hike on the off-leash trail system (I kept Boca on-leash) and shared our adoption stories and other canine-centric conversation. I noticed that there were no uncomfortable silences among a group of strangers, as we laughed and exclaimed over our dogs' antics and discussed their various quirks as well as our different rescue experiences. The weather could not have been more perfect, and the dogs seemed to enjoy each other's company. Boca was calm and polite with every dog she met and came trotting joyfully back to me whenever I'd call for her in the fenced area. I think that it's sometimes difficult for adults (especially introverts) to meet people outside of the workplace, and these wonderful dogs from the Bahamas not only made each of our separate lives better, but offered the opportunity for new friendships.

Growing up as an only child surrounded by pets and farm animals (which were also pets), I have always been most comfortable in the nonverbal space inhabited by the furred, finned and feathered, but I find that animals can also provide us with connection and confidence when serving as conduits between our own kind. No matter our differences, it seems that people from all walks of life can find common ground when sharing the path with animals. They lift us up when we're feeling small and give us a voice when we're feeling mute. This weekend I was reminded how powerful they can be, just by being themselves.

13 comments:

  1. As a child of an extreme extrovert, my mother could not understand my shy and introverted behavior. Having dogs has helped me greatly with this, I bring a dog when I can to social events as my personal introverted therapy dog. My mother was shocked the first time she went to a dog show with me. She exclaimed I was a different person and could not believe how much more outgoing and social I was.

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    1. I come from a family of introverted animal people, except my mom was the sort that made friends easily everywhere she went. It is so interesting how dogs or other animals can change the way we interact. I don't even have to have a dog with me - if the topic is dogs I cannot shut up!

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  2. Sounds like your animal friends gave you a great introduction to some new friends.

    And best of all for introverts, when you have had enough and want to go home, you always have the dogs as an excuse. "I'd love to go out for drinks. But I have to get home to feed the dogs." :)

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  3. Sounds like a busy but awfully fun weekend
    Lily & Edward

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    1. I am lucky enough to have every other Friday off, and I always try to pack a lot in to those three-day weekends.

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  4. I have made some amazing friends and connections that I would not have if were not for my dogs.

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    1. Since I went to school for equine science, I feel I owe ALL of my college friends to horses, and so many now because of dogs.

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  5. I love meeting new people that share an interest in animals as well - it makes it so much easier to have something we're passionate about in common. I'm also an only child, my animals were my best friends growing up, so I can empathize with the difficulty of feeling at ease in certain social situations. It's so awesome that you created the group and had your first meet up - something a lot of introverts wouldn't dare to do :)

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    1. They really do inspire us in so many ways.

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  6. Great story - I've made many of my adult friends through my dogs...

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  7. Yes, yes, yes! I have made so many friends through the dogs, despite my deep-rooted fear of socialization! :) I am an introvert as well, and one of my stressors in gatherings is figuring out what to say. When it's an animal event, that piece is already figured out for me! (Although, I must admit: I use them as an excuse to duck out early or not attend some events altogether...)

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  8. I concur wholeheartedly with every word of this. I was stunned at how my world opened up when I got Kaiya. I still need far more solitude than most people I know, but with Kaiya I can socialize in ways I never expected.

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