Why I Kiss My Dog

By Angelica Steinker, M.Ed., CDBC, PDBC

Life is inherently satisfying. Just ask my Border Collie Stevie. Stevie finds joy in playing with anything at all. He sees a toy in every object. Best of all, he likes to pounce on toys. Stevie is my problem child. He has several psychiatric and physical problems. Everyday life is difficult for him and by the end of the day he often has a hard time getting upstairs to go to bed. He lives with chronic pain and torturous thunderstorm phobia, but still every day he finds and holds onto joy.

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Photo by Kim Butler

Stevie says that if you can’t hold on to the joy, go to bed and tomorrow you will find more joy.


Zoomie, also a Border Collie, has extraordinary sensitivity. He reads people better than most humans read each other and accurately predicts human behavior. It isn’t magic. It is that Zoomie inspires listening. The fascinating thing is that Zoomie, my best listener, is deaf in one ear and hearing impaired in the other. He can’t determine the origin of sounds, but he knows when you are thinking of brushing your teeth. One of his favorite things is to roll in dirt. He particularly loves to grind the dirt into his head, specifically the gap in between his eyes. However it is even more fun to teach the new dog in the family, Power, to do the same. Power immediately found dirt grinding to be a high joy activity.

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Photo by Angelica Steinker

Another thing Zoomie loves to do is to “kill” stuffed animals.  Once the crime is committed, he likes to pose the bodies in hideous positions.  Here is a photo chronicle of some of his work.

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Photo by Angelica Steinker

As with human criminals it is common for Zoomie to return to the crime scene.

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Photo by Angelica Steinker

Notice the somewhat startled expression, which was followed by an extremely detailed story of how the neighbor’s dog gutted the toy.

While such violent activities are antisocial in human culture, in dog culture they are revered. Below you can see the “younger brother” joining in on the humiliation by further desecrating the body.

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Photo by Angelica Steinker

While my Border Collies are masters at teaching persistence, motivation and problem solving, the best teacher is Bella. In Bella’s world it is all about her at all times. In case anyone missed the memo: it is 100% about Bella. Bella is supremely consistent. If it is about her, she will reinforce you with one of her “you are approved of” facial expressions.

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Photo by Kim Butler

Above is Bella’s “you are allowed to live” expression. God help you if you have not behaved as Bella wishes, you could get one of the undesired facial expressions– and worst of all, you could get the dreaded tongue flick.

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Photo by Kim Butler

If Bella is not happy, no one in the direct vicinity of Bella will be happy. Just as the death inducing dementors of Harry Potter, she will suck all the joy and life out of you.

While superficially this may sound demonic, it is actually a blessing. What Bella is communicating is really all about us as people, when we become obsessed with a goal or desire something, we are in the grips of our ego, Bella can’t be part of that. You will get a tongue flick. When you engage in pro-social behavior that furthers joy and helps others, you get the happy face. What appears as Bella’s narcissism is actually a gift that functions as a feedback mechanism that enhances your personal growth.

People who love dogs can be misunderstood! Let yourself be pulled into the moment and find joy and love. My dogs are not my life, they show me how to live life. While we over function, suffer and struggle, our dogs lead us to joy. While we increase our stress and fail to find balance they find healing in the moment. Kiss a dog and find heaven.

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Photo by GLB