8. Protect or Overprotect


On our walks with sir Oliver we walk along a canal, and on the canal side we found coral red body parts of freshwater crayfish. At first I thought that someone’s trash bag or bin was emptied on the lawn of the canal side. Then I had the theory that birds had brought these body parts to the canal side. Then I found out that the canal is overpopulated with these invasive Alien Species. A North American freshwater crayfish that found his way to Europe in the mid eighties. Especially seagulls and crows have the crayfish on their favorite menu. They fish them out of the water, tear them apart, eat the flesh from all the different body parts and leave the empty shells behind on the lawn of the canal side.

So every time we would walk and sir Oliver’s nose went towards a crayfish body part, especially the claws, my daughter would lead him away from it or instruct me to lead him away from it. My daughter is sir Oliver’s main caregiver, she adopted him, so she is the one that sets out the rules for his ‘upbringing’ or training. I, as the granny, will follow her instructions or add another dimension to her instructions as I see things could be done differently. With the crayfish I had followed her instructions at first, since she was afraid that sir Oliver would hurt himself when sniffing a crayfish claw, and I took that at the time as a valid reason.

One morning when walking alone with sir Oliver he was on a mission of tracking down as many scent trails as possible. So when he stopped and I looked at what it was, I saw sir Oliver sniffing a crayfish claw. My first reaction was, oh no, we are not allowed to do so. Then I saw that he had moved on and was already sniffing other things like poop and pee of other dogs. So I realized that we had been overprotective about these crayfish. Since we directed him away from these body parts thus far, it seemed like he spotted them everywhere and insisted on smelling them all. Now when he did smell one part he seemed satisfied to me. As if he had mapped this scent, he didn’t know yet. Since he now had the scent info of the crayfish, he wasn’t interested any more in checking them all out.

Looking at parenting, it’s not much different, the more the parent wants a child not to do something the more interesting it becomes to the child. For the child it is simply a new experience, a way to explore their world. For the parent it is fear and danger that is luring everywhere to hurt it’s child. A protection mechanism that protects the child from anything bad to happen, but when fed with too much fear, it becomes a limitation/restriction the child will most likely start rebelling against.

Right away I took this experience to commit myself to give sir Oliver more time to explore and map out his environment through scent. I also spoke this through with my daughter who could now see that with common sense we can let sir Oliver explore more, and only intervene when there is a real risk or danger.

Now, we sometimes stand still, when someone walks by. Sir Oliver then stands straight like a proud hound with his nose in the air, mapping out the stranger. Though this I practised to be patient and enjoy the walks with him that are never dull and always open up something new within me.


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