the boxes we live in

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Lone Peak, Big Sky Montana

Five years ago I went through a breakup that pretty much changed the course of my life. One of those total mind f*cks you can’t quite figure out, so you analyze it from the beginning to pinpoint where it all went wrong, which only makes you sit down and face yourself, who you are, who you’ve become. Who you want to be. I felt like an observer in our relationship, like he knew something about me I didn’t, saw something I couldn’t. I was constantly creeping around eggshells, trying to navigate the landmines of his mind. Everything I thought I liked about myself turned sour, my usual charms no longer effective. I forgot who I was in my effort to be someone I thought he wanted.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are plenty of reasons not to like me, but this was more than that. He seemed to enjoy the idea of me, yet simultaneously despise me on this visceral level, one that didn’t make sense, at least not to me. It was like we were on this incredible outdoor adventure, but waking up to torrential rains every day. I needed an explanation, one that didn’t stem solely from me just being an unlikeable, shitty person.

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Maybe I’m not the best, but I’d certainly like to think I’m not the worst. Pacific Crest Trail 2017

Yeah, I know. That isn’t the way relationships work, and feelings can’t always be explained. But no one had ever reacted as strangely to my basic existence the way he did; I was equal parts confused as I was fascinated. What was going on? Was it really just me? Was I that bad? I mean, wasn’t it at least a little bit him?

As with all complicated life situations, I consulted my friend Alex, who in seeing my fruitless quest to grow logic from the illogical, offered the mystery of the Enneagram as one possible seed of explanation. You know how when you are searching and searching and searching and just need something to make sense, something to believe in?

I’ll spare you the in-depth explanation of the Enneagram and leave you with CliffsNotes:

The Enneagram helps us to see ourselves at a deeper, more objective level and can be of invaluable assistance on our path to self-knowledge.

I became slightly obsessed with my path to self-knowledge. You take a test consisting of a shitload of questions you’re to answer based on how you behave externally, not how you feel internally, which is actually super tricky. According to the Enneagram, though we all possess traits from every category, everyone falls into one of nine major personality types.

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Even plants have their own personalities. PCT, Washington

And I’m a Seven, the busy variety seeking type, spontaneous, versatile, acquisitive, scattered:

  • Constantly seeking new & exciting experiences; can become distracted & exhausted by staying on the go. (sums up the last decade of my life)
  • On a very deep level, Sevens do not feel they can find what they really want in life. (a sad truth)
  • Unable to decide whether they want vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry ice cream, a Seven will want all three flavors—just to be sure they do not miss out on the “right” choice. (THE OVERWHELMING MENU OF LIFE)
  • As Sevens speed up their pursuit of whatever seems to offer freedom & satisfaction, they tend to make worse choices; less able to be satisfied because everything is experienced indirectly, through the dense filter of their fast-paced mental activity; end up anxious, frustrated, and enraged. (also known as the dark days from which I recently emerged)
  • On the positive side, (finally!) Sevens are extremely optimistic people—exuberant, upbeat. Endowed with abundant vitality and a desire to fully participate in their lives each day. Naturally cheerful & good humored, not taking themselves too seriously, or anything else for that matter. Remind us of the pure pleasure of existence. (so I got this going for me)

Yeah. This feels like my life. That being said, the Enneagram is not meant to put you in a box; it shows you the box you’re already in so you can climb out. That’s what they say, anyway.

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View from Mt Whitney summit

I needed to know his number. Because not only is the Enneagram meant to help you interpret your typical behavior in times of stress and growth, but it helps you understand your interactions with other personality types. It was my chance to solve the mystery, to provide that logical explanation I desperately needed. To discover why he found my quirky, adorable habits more annoying than quirky and adorable.

So I sent him a link and he graciously humored me. A Five. My best self gravitates toward a Five and Fives basically hate everything about Sevens (I mean, after he read the basic description of Seven, he said he felt sorry for me). Cool. Mystery solved. I photocopied the Five and Seven chapters and mailed them to him in relief. See? It’s not me. It’s me and you combined. And life made sense again. (I should probably note he’s a phenomenal human and still a great friend, we just weren’t meant to take that turn in our relationship.)

I am very aware of how bananas this makes me sound, and I’m okay with that. If we’re friends, I’ve probably suggested you take the test as well and we’ve probably referred to other people by their number, not so much in judgement, but in understanding. But whatever. This isn’t about me, anyway. It’s about my dog.

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What? I don’t have anything in my mouth.

So the Wisdom Panel is sort of like the Enneagram for dogs. Only it’s based on DNA and returns the ancestry of your pupper so you’re better able to cater to the needs of his breed, or more likely, to simply satisfy your curiosity of the mysterious mutt.

Freddie is a looker. He’s got piercing blue eyes (or as my favorite five year old calls them, creepy eyes) that see right through you, a feather duster tail that curves onto his back when he’s happy, two sort of floppy, sort of not, adorable ears, and a fantastically shiny coat in a speckled pattern of all the shades of black, white and silver. Everyone who meets him wants to know what kind of dog he is, to which I reply, no one really knows.

The shelter told me he was an Aussie Shepherd/Siberian Husky, though I immediately had my doubts. Husky I could handle, but as a first time dog mom who thought she was getting an Aussie mix, I read up on the breed (need to be stimulated, like keeping busy, do well when given jobs) and prepared myself with all the smart toys. He hated all of them immediately.

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How ’bout you get the treats outta the toy while I chew on this rug.

He had zero patience with the treat dispense toys and just looked at me like, WTF lady, I don’t see YOU rolling a rubber toy on the ground to get your dinner. Fair. There’s this plush toy with a bunch of squirrels in a tree the dogs are supposed to enjoy fishing out. Freddie just runs around with the whole thing in his mouth, chomping down so everything squeaks. He couldn’t care less about getting the squirrels out. The first time I threw a frisbee, he looked at me with his old man eyebrows like, yeeeaaah not gonna happen. The second time, it hit him in the face. The third time, he simply sat down.

His favorite play toy is “other dog” followed closely by “small children he can herd.” If none of those are available, BALL. Big balls, little balls, squeaky balls, especially other dog’s balls, soccer balls, volleyballs, the little ball on the top of winter hats, all of the balls. That being said, he’s not super into retrieving, he just likes the chase. It’s not unlike him to attack a soccer ball on the move, growling at it as he tackles it to a stop and immediately look up for more.

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Ball & other dog? Pure bliss.

I’m no dog expert, but I didn’t think Freddie would be walking tightropes or begging to run through agility courses any time soon. He’s definitely intelligent, just more in the sly fox sort of way and not at all in the people pleasing way. But just in case I was denying him a chance at his best self, I swabbed his cheeks and sent his DNA to be analyzed.

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I think we have a purebred mutt on our hands.

Siberian Husky (25%):

  • Active, social, friendly
  • Often do well with children & other dogs
  • Stubborn tendencies, may engage in digging, might chase wildlife

American Eskimo Dog (12.5%)

  • Alert, intelligent, playful
  • Can be wary of strangers
  • Tendency to bark

Chow Chow (12.5%)

  • Reputation as loyal family dog
  • Reserved, wary with strangers
  • Independent spirit, but responds to reward-based obedience training

Coonhound (12.5%

  • Agile, energetic, loving, intelligent, confident, even-tempered
  • Not good with small animals due to their innate tracking & hunting instincts
  • Tracking sense so strong they are unable to follow commands when trailing a scent
  • Curious nature means they have tendency to stand on their hind legs to investigate things held in arms
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May engage in digging.

Well. This explains a lot. When the test comes back, it includes a short description of the detected breeds asking, “Recognize any of these behaviors in Freddie Mercury?” Boy, do I. Especially the “independent spirit, stubborn tendencies, wary of strangers and unable to follow commands” parts.

But just like Enneagram isn’t meant to put you in a box, the Wisdom Panel has a disclaimer on every results page stating:

All dogs should be considered individual animals. Because each is a product of their unique environment and handling, they may exhibit different traits and behaviors than those listed here.

F that. This was the perfect excuse for me roll my eyes and say, “Coonhound, am I right?” when Freddie refuses to listen to me when it’s time to leave the dog park. Must be trailing some scent. It also highlights how despite his best efforts, he simply can’t resist chasing the cats. They will never be friends.

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The day Freddie learned what happens when you corner a cat. Especially one of the Elsa variety.

His independent Chow Chow spirit helps me explain to passersby why my dog sometimes refuses to walk up my porch steps, pulling back with all his might until we make one more lap around the neighborhood, after which, he bounds up the stairs and paws at the door to get inside. No, he’s fine, he’s not afraid of the house, he doesn’t have to poop or pee, he just wants to check out that bunny that hangs out two doors down, just one more time.

His Eskimo Dog shines through whenever he hears something at the front door and goes nuts until I open it to show him nothing is there, at which point he paces around the house with that low husky howl until he’s certain it’s all good.

And it fills my heart to see Freddie acting so much like my favorite Siberian Huskies back in Finland. Like when he wiggles out of my grasp and bolts from the truck in a mad dash to the schoolyard across the street to play with the children at recess. How he shimmies under the fence (yes, he fences himself in) to get into the yard he associates with chasing balls. How he can knock me off my feet with a simple bunny or squirrel sighting.

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I’m watching you, bird.

But what his DNA doesn’t show is all those quirky and adorable habits that make him undeniably the cutest dog who ever lived. It doesn’t explain why he’s terrified of any replica of a living creatures including but not limited to: dinosaurs, cows, plastic bunnies, wooden sleeping cats, baby dolls, snowmen. Or why he poops and bolts (learned this the hard way on our morning poop walk). Or his fear of airplanes, large open air garages, and how he flat out refuses to walk into certain buildings at random. How he makes wide arcs around man hole covers and growls at curbside water drainages. How he lifts his back leg just to pee directly onto his front leg.

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Basically his worst nightmare.

His DNA doesn’t explain why, when he’s being particularly independent and pretending I don’t exist, if I lay down on the ground, he runs as fast as his four legs can get to me and tries to lick me back to life. Or how the first time I took his Alabama butt out to poop in the snow, he whined and looked at me imploringly because he couldn’t find a grassy spot to do his business. Or how he cycles through every trick I’ve every taught him and some I haven’t, as soon as I open a cupboard door or he hears a package crinkle.

He might be 25% Siberian Husky, 12.5% Chow Chow, American Eskimo Dog, Coonhound, and a Mixed Breed mutt, but he’s 100% all Freddie Mercury (…the dog).

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