Extroverted Introvert

It has been raining for days and days, almost nonstop. But the rain makes everything lush and green. Here's some mustard, beginning to bloom in a field we pass on our walks. (This photo has nothing to do with the rest of my post, but it's always nice to have something to look at.)

I believe myself to be an extroverted introvert. I'm introverted by nature, but I have taught myself to function as an extrovert because it seems to be more socially acceptable. Still, if given the choice of going to a fancy cocktail party or staying home with my family, I would pick staying home every time.

But when I'm out walking or running, this learned extroverted behavior causes me to smile and greet people who are coming in my direction. I'm not interested in having a conversation, but I like to be moderately friendly and usually say hello or good morning.

However, now that I have Cabana, who is an extrovert to the extreme, I have realized that even these small gestures of extroversion on my part can't be continued (at least for right now). I have had to learn to use my body language and energy to convey to both Cabana and to passersby that we aren't interested in any interaction. A real "don't bother me" attitude. I keep my eyes averted from them, move as far over to my side of the path as possible, and hold Cabana's leash close to body. I feel super unfriendly when I'm doing this, but it makes a HUGE difference in how Cabana behaves toward other people. I don't know if my body language is picked up by Cabana directly, or if my body language affects other people's behavior, which in turn affects Cabana...probably it's some of both.

Before I figured this out, although it seems simple and obvious enough to me now, I would smile and say hello to passersby, and they would do the same. And Cabana would be pulling on her leash, lunging toward them (yes, even with her headcollar on), saying with every part of her being, "Hey, look at me! I'm a cute puppy. Please pet me and let me jump on you and nibble your fingers! I like you and I know you'll like me!"

With my newly adopted mode of behavior, Cabana is much calmer when a person is approaching. She still tends to perk her head up and quicken her pace even when the person is at quite a distance--but it is much more controllable and shorter in duration.

This is all very important because if there's one thing that might lead to Cabana's downfall as a Guide Dog, it's her tendency to be distracted by people and dogs. She can't be stopping to meet everybody when she's working as a Guide Dog--or her blind companion will never get anywhere on time! She needs to be able to focus on doing what her owner wants and needs, and she will never learn that if I don't teach her to ignore other people.

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