Alpha and Omega Example – Dog Fostering

book cover 2008I’ve been featured a couple of times in the Girls Gone WOD podcast (thanks gals!). The latest one is HERE.

A lot of the questions revolve around the “3D chess” of relationships. Man/woman. Introvert/Extrovert. And Alpha/”non-Alpha” (which we’ve taken to calling Omega). There are so many things that can be different in a relationship . . . and it’s important to know not only where you stand, but also where the other party comes from, to help make the relationship the best it can be.

In my book Fempowerment: A Guide to Unleashing Your Inner Bond Girl and the accompanying workbook, I talk a lot about how to be empowered by your feminine side (hence, “Fempowerment” – Feminine or Female + Empowerment). How to be #1 at being #2…How to be supportive without being submissive. I talk a bit about the whole “Alpha/non-Alpha” thing, but mainly about male/female relationships and expectations.

As you have heard if you have heard the 2 podcasts on GGW that I was on, I am an introvert, a girl (duh), and also an “Omega.” Though people often go crazy when they hear me describe myself as an introverted non-Alpha, it’s usually because they have only seen me in my “comfort zone.” When you put an introvert – or a non-Alpha – in their comfort zone, they’re just as outgoing and fun as the next guy. In fact, they might be more so, because that’s the only place where they get to be comfortably outgoing.

And, they will still care very much what you think, want to talk about, and if you are having a good time.

Anyway – I was talking about dogs.

Jake and Sandy small
Jake and me

When my husband and I were first married, I came “with” a dog, Jake. Okay, and a handful of cats. (I had lived on a farm, after all.) My husband is a city boy from Vienna, Austria, who doesn’t believe in the whole “pet” concept.

He got along fairly well with Jake, but after Jake passed away about 4 years or so ago, he basically said “That’s it, no more dogs.”

Dogs are hard. We travel a lot, and, while cats can just have someone come and visit to feed/water/scoop their kitty litter, dogs are not in this category.

A gal from my Crossfit box happens to be a director at our local Humane Society. Though I don’t know her all that well, she’s the sister of my main Crossfit coach Bo. But she doesn’t usually work out when I do.

We happened to be at the gym at the same time a couple weeks ago, and she was discussing a dog that they had at the Humane Society that she was “desperate” to find a home for. In fact, she said she would have taken him home herself, but she already has four dogs and that wasn’t in the cards.

Named “Jeffrey” (after the patrol officer that found him), this dog is a blue Staffordshire, 65 pounds but THIN (you can see his ribs), about eight years old. He had an eye issue that had to be resolved by having the eye removed. He had been at the Humane Society for two months, because he also had bad teeth, kennel cough, bad skin, worms, blah blah. Can you say $3,000 worth of vet work? Anyway, so, he’s a one-eyed, older, “pitbull-esque,” male, cropped-ear dog. No takers.

Since we are in a “no kill” county, this basically means that after a dog has been put up for adoption but not adopted, it goes to “Doggie Jail.” What’s that? It’s a fostering situation with a lot of dogs, none of which particularly get any attention – and of course none of which are going to be adopted into “forever homes.”

winston with borders
“I heard you had border collies before…look! I’m a border collie!!!” (before he had his bad eye removed)

I went to visit “Jeffrey” the day after she mentioned him. Okay – what a great dog. He is voice and hand command trained, crate trained, obedient, gentle, sweet and fun. (He didn’t answer to “Jeffrey” mind you – but who would?) We were leaving two days later for a week vacation, so I went back the next day to see him again, and took some photos and a video.

When I got home, I broached the dog subject with my Alpha hubby, who said ABSOLUTELY NOT. Then I asked him if he would just look at the video. You’ll know all this if you listened to the GGW podcast, because I detailed all this there.

After we returned from our vacation (she got special dispensation to hold him from going to Doggie Jail for a week), we brought him home for a week trial. After sending photos to Joy at GGW, she re-named him “Hank” (the Tank) – and of course, Joy being another of “my Alphas,” I just started calling him that. However, since my husband is my “head #1 Alpha,” I realized that the real key was to get him to name the dog. If he did that, I was sure I could keep him.

winston body(To cut to the chase – my hubby named him “Winston,” I YouTube’d how to get a dog to answer to a new name and worked feverishly on it so it would “seem” that he “just happened to answer to” the name my husband picked, and the paperwork all went through this morning. He’s ours.)

But back to the Alpha/Omega thing.

During the “trial week,” the difference between my Alpha husband’s interactions/reactions to the dog and my interactions/reactions to the dog were so marked, it got me to thinking.

As a non-Alpha, my reaction to the dog was all about whether things were good for him. As in, was this food tasty enough? Was this bed comfy enough? Was this chew toy exactly what he would like? Was he bored? Did he want to go out? Was he happy? Did he want to go in the crate when we were at work/when we went to bed?

As an Alpha, my husband’s reaction to the dog was: This dog is so lucky to be here, this is the best life ever for any dog, especially a dog that was heading to doggie jail from a hard knock life. As such, he couldn’t give a damn whether the food is tasty, the bed is comfy, the chew toy is what he wants, or whether he wants to go out (if I took him out 45 minutes ago) or if he wants to go into the crate – he’s so lucky to be here that anything we do is going to be the best life he could ever, EVER have. He’s happy. Period.

It never occurred to me to think this way. Never. Ever.

And you know what? It’s so freeing!!!

winstonI’m not hardwired to ‘be’ an Alpha – and I will never be. But this is one of those situations where I realize that some of my patterned responses do me more harm than good. In my husband’s view, even if we didn’t “lavish” the dog with “love/affection/whatever” 24/7, he was light years better off than he would have been under the circumstances he came from and where he would have been going. He now has a clean house, a loving couple, an acre of back yard wildlife area, good food, toys, a comfy crate, etc.

I do not need to serve the dog.

All you Alphas are just laughing your heads off at this. But I’ve never really been in this situation with an animal. In general, I’ve had my animals from puppy- or kittenhood. As such, I take “responsibility” for their happiness.

My last dog, Jake, was immensely shy, and quite the Omega himself. I had him from puppyhood, and folks would constantly say “Oh, he must have been abused before you got him.” Nope…he just came that way. And I spent all his years with me (15+) trying to be sure that things were “good for him.” I was constantly being “sensitive” to his “sensitivities.”

My husband was never that way with Jake. He treated him like…a dog. And a dog that had to fit into his life – not vice versa. They had an interesting dynamic.

Because Winston is older, and actually a great, easy-going dog without any hangups, I frankly think that he and my husband are going to get along better than Jake and my husband ever did. Jake always seemed worried that he was going to do something wrong – sort of the hyper-Omega. Winston might be an Alpha, but he knows that he is not the Alpha. I tend to think he’s a pleaser, and might be a non-Alpha. But in general, he’s very easy going, and wants to please, but if he doesn’t please, he kinda doesn’t give a sh*t.

You can learn from anything – even a dog. Maybe especially a dog.

I think that often, I have been more a Jake-like Omega. I think I’m going to enjoy discovering how to be more a Winston-like Omega.


One thought on “Alpha and Omega Example – Dog Fostering

  1. I laughed when you described how your alpha husband saw the dog as lucky! Having listened to your podcast, you flipped my view in alpha / omega. I believe I am an alpha, and always thought of my husband as an alpha. I always thought in our relationship, I was the omega. We recently got a dog for the first tine and my man is the omega and I am the alpha as we have had the exact same dialogue as you and your man!

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