Too needy

8 Mar 2022

I have been a volunteer with animal rescue charities for years. Mainly I care for dogs, many of whom have “issues”. Separation anxiety is quite common, not only in abused or abandoned dogs but also those who have been with loving humans since they were pups. The way this manifests itself can be a big problem, especially for people who work full-time. Destructive behaviour, barking and howling to annoy neighbours, soiling, are all typical.


At one time various remedies and tactics were advised. In a drawer I have a collection of  thunder shirts, pheromone plug-ins, wolf howl tapes. All can be helpful for brief stress, like bonfire night, but pretty useless in general. The only thing that often helps is a doggie tranquilliser, herbal or prescribed. Now, most responsible dog rescues and breeders will not place a dog where it will be left alone for more than 4 hours. This has led to a huge increase in business for freelance doggie daycare services. Dogs love their people, they want to be with them, they feel safe and happy with Mum or Dad around, just as a young child would. They are not bad dogs or neurotic dogs, their reactions make sense. It is often said that the dogs belonging to homeless people have a better life than many household pets. Next to food, human company is the thing they crave most.


I was pondering this recently, working with another volunteer. A lovely little collie cross named Elsie had been brought in, pulled from the local pound when her 7 days were up. She was up in our arms, crying and clinging. When we put her back in her kennel she desperately tried to get out to be with us. We agreed that she would make a most loving and loyal companion for the right person, and felt so sorry for the little soul.


Chatting later, I asked this lady how her son was. “Oh he’s found the perfect girlfriend” she said “She’s in the RAF, only gets home a couple of times a month, and likes doing her own thing. All the others have been far too needy and clingy, expecting him to spend time with them. The last one was texting him and getting on his nerves”. Hmm, it’s not exactly “Play Misty for Me” is it?


How odd, I thought, that being loving and needy was seen as rather touching and sweet in a dog, but very annoying and shameful in a person. The son in question is very much into fitness and body building, and I can well imagine that he does not have much patience with someone who wants a bit of his attention. He’s very pleasant, but Carly Simon’s lyrics - “You had one eye in the mirror as you watched yourself go about” come to mind.


I have known a couple of women who have been very hurt after being dumped. They became rather obsessed, I suppose mild stalking could describe their behaviour. I felt sorry for them, they were not unhinged psychos, just unable to conveniently switch off their feelings when their source of affection or security was abruptly ended. They were capable and intelligent, just unable to let go. I think I have too much stubborn pride to  behave like that, but I totally get the emotional anguish they went through.


“Too needy” is a derogatory term usually used about women. I know this sounds sexist. There are probably loads of men who feel insecure and possessive, but maybe men don’t own up to it?


Sometimes it says more about the person making that accusation. They really don’t want demands made upon them. That’s perfectly fine, but I don’t think it’s fair for them to enter into a relationship, then pull down the shutters when it all gets a bit too close for comfort. Like a dog chucked out of a car, the other person is left in shock, reeling, mind full of unanswered questions. Was it so wrong to suggest a shared holiday for example, after seeing each other for a year?


This is a true story. A girl I knew won a goldfish at the fair, when it was still legal. She took it home, got a bowl and some fish food. She felt sorry for it, and suggested to her boyfriend that they get another one from the pet shop for company. He was shocked, ”Why are you trying to tie me down, I’m not ready for commitment”. They had lived together for a couple of years. He left, only to end up with another girl soon after.


As for Elsie, a retired lady lost her husband and her dog last year. Elsie is now with her, both are very needy, and that’s just fine.



A Moodscope member.

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