Everything I need to know about nonviolent resistance I learned from my dog

I am sore this morning. It’s the result of sleeping in an “S” shape – trying to fit myself around 2 dogs in the bed. Yes, pathetic, but true. How is it that this not -so -huge dog can make her 55ish pounds turn into 1055ish pounds when I’m trying to move her?

The most experienced activist could learn a thing or two about going limp from this 4 legged resister.

Yes, everything I ever needed to know about being a nonviolent resister I learned from my dogs.

I know from being arrested that no matter how much you know you are going to resist- no matter how much you have told yourself you will leave every muscle in your body limp and not cooperate at all in your arrest, when someone puts their hands under your arms and goes to lift you up it is the most natural thing in the world to just stand up and move.  As a nonviolence trainer I suggest people practice this tool with friends.  It’s just natural to “help” someone “help you up.”

Not for Roxy.

If I want my spot on the bed back I’m going to have to do all the work.  No growling, no fighting it… just no cooperation, no help… and no chance in hell she’s going very far… this flopping, limp sack of dog.  This, in spite of the fact I outweigh her, and I like to believe I am smarter than her.

But sometimes outright noncooperation is not the way to go. Maybe you don’t want to get arrested, maybe you’re trying to buy some time… whatever the reason you have decided the appearance of cooperation will act in your favor. You know the drill. The cops say, “You all have to back up behind this line.”  So, you smile back up a step or two – then dance a step, two, or three forward. The appearance of movement and yet you’ve gone no where. This too is a tactic Roxy is familiar with. 

“Move”, I tell her – putting my feet underneath her and wiggling them as if to say “see this is not a comfortable place to sleep.” And she gets up! She moves! She flops back down – and somehow she is in the exact same space. Yes, her head may have moved an inch or so, but for the most part she is just as she was. 

Then too there is the art of ignoring. We’re at the park and she’s happily sniffing around. A little too happy I start to think… anything that smells that good to her is probably trouble … so I call her. She doesn’t come. She doesn’t even look up. She doesn’t run away either – if I didn’t know better I might think she didn’t even hear me.  Clearly she is not going to acknowledge my authority.  And when she is ready she comes happily running on over to me “hi, were you talking to me? I’m sorry, I didn’t realize…” 

I am reminded of a friend walking through the check point in Palestine – in a hurry to join other internationals to provide international witness and accompaniment of Palestinians during an Israeli incursion into the occupied West Bank.  “Stop” the soldier calls – and on she walks… as if thinking “he can’t be talking to me.”  When ignoring becomes impossible or too dangerous she holds her passport up and walks past “we are in a hurry, we need to get to our friends.”

It was during my own work in Palestine that another lesson from Roxy paid off. Persistence is sometimes everything. On this occasion, some Israeli soldiers had stopped Palestinian cab drivers and taken their papers, effectively stopping them from going anywhere. While MPT does not usually negotiate for the Palestinians– knowing people are their own best resource and can negotiate for themselves – on this particular occasion the cab drivers had asked us to attempt to talk to the soldiers and have their papers returned.  So, I started trying to talk to the man in the jeep. He closed the window and ignored me. I was not ready to be ignored. I continued my non-stop rambling; at times appealing to his humanity and his own sense of dignity – calling on him to act from his better self. At times pointing out the international laws being broken by the occupation… but never ceasing in my talking… eventually the door opened a crack. I stuck my knee in so he couldn’t close it and continued talking.  Mostly I was repeating the same things over and over. This went on for what felt like forever, until eventually he returned the papers. I wish I could say it was because I touched his heart, that something him changed – but really I think he just wanted me to shut up.

I babysat a friend’s dog once. Marco’s is bigger than Roxy and had – on occasion – asserted his authority with her.  She still had a bit of that spastic puppy energy and he would let her he didn’t approve. He found a rawhide bone type thing in our house and was happily chewing away on it.  I feared there would be trouble but Roxy knew better than to try to take it from him. Instead she planted herself near-by and started barking at him…nonstop. “Hey, that’s mine. That’s not fair. Aren’t you even going to share? Give me some please. I know you want to. After all, it’s mine.” On and on and on she went, nonstop barking- you will not ignore me. Persistence pays off and eventually Marcos just got up and walked away – leaving her the bone.

So, you see, it’s all there persistence, negotiation tactics, passive resistance techniques… I can learn a lot from my dog.

3 responses to “Everything I need to know about nonviolent resistance I learned from my dog

  1. That’s pretty funny. How about your other dog? What have you learned from her?

  2. Yeah, Sher, i think it’s called dog density— which can change depending upon the environment. hahaha! It does not apply to cats, however. They do tend to move, however, they take a different approach— which I call a wear-you-down-until-you-vacate-the-area-attack.

    Great post! JIG

  3. Zoey-
    Well Bella (my other dog) was rescued from an abusive home and she is not a pasifist. But, I have learned from her loyality, brush your fur every day or the burrs will never come out, and to protect those you love

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