Fostering dogs is such a rewarding experience. This last guy we had, Gadget, who got adopted today, had a very sweet and funny habit of not going any farther away from me than a few inches. Dave joked that when Gadget would come waddling up to me and nose me in the side, Gadget was asking “Yes m’lady, what can I do for you?” It was if he was saying, “I am so grateful to you for saving me, I will be by your side always”. Watching him leave with his new family today was bittersweet. He jumped in the car with the windows rolled down, and he stuck his head out and nosed me in the shoulder one last time before they drove away.
I heard H. Alan Day (brother to Sandra Day O’Connor and author of “The Horse Lover” as well as other books) speak the other day at a business meeting. He wanted to tell us his story of owning a wild horse sanctuary in South Dakota. While I enjoyed the horse story, I even more enjoyed the connections I could so easily make to relationships and communication.
Alan Day told us of how, despite not initially knowing a lot about horses or horse behavior, he set out on a mission to build relationships with them, one horse at a time. He said he quickly learned signs that the horse was ready to trust you. He said there were three signs that a wild horse might just be willing to trust you:
*one ear would be pointed forward and one ear turned back
*the horse would be making “chewing” motions with nothing in its mouth
*pawing the ground with one hoof while nickering
I thought it was interesting to hear that the signs of potential trust were so easily readable. Imagine if it were so simple for us as humans to know if someone was willing to trust us.
“Yes, the signs of trust in humans are easy to read: the big toe of the right foot will be pointed upward and the nose will twitch of its own accord.” But alas, things are not always so simplified, right? In fact, people who have trusted and been “burned” often speak of confusion, “I thought everything was okay between us. I had no idea there was mistrust”. What about the marriages that dissolve because of infidelity and the spouses who later say, “I had no clue”. Dave and I have a long-standing joke, “If you are a closet serial killer like ‘Dexter’, could you just wear a t-shirt that says so, so I don’t have to guess?” I have to believe, though, despite any joking, that I would see a sign and know if Dave and I had lost the trust between us.
But what about those work relationships? What about friendships? What about your own significant other? What are the signs of trust? How do you know for certain if you have built an unshaking modicum of trust? I believe, just as H. Alan Day did, it takes paying attention and caring enough about the other being to really take note of the signs.
Just for today, maybe we can focus on watching for the signs of trust between ourselves and the others around us. Whether others turn an ear towards us or drag their hoof in the dirt, we should be aware of how we impact others and how they impact us.