The concept of personal space has been studied for decades, with interesting results.
Apparently all humans have a “second skin,” a personal space that should not be invaded. This is hard-wired in our brains. Our discomfort when someone gets too close is a feeling that cannot be controlled.
Our personal space varies depending on who is coming close to us, whether it is a partner, family member, friend or stranger. The necessary amount of personal space also varies with cultures around the world. Some cultures allow a closer contact, while others insist on more personal space.
What about animals? Researchers have found personal space is also hard-wired in the brains of animals. According to their findings, solitary animals — like cats — insist on a larger personal space, while pack animals — like dogs — tend to allow closer contact.
Then there’s Pierre, who has no concept about anyone’s personal space. None at all. The other day I came into the family room after a morning of volunteer work. I picked up my knitting, got into one of the recliners and pushed the button to pull the recliner out into a comfortable position, where I could put my legs up and lean back. It had been a long morning and I was ready for some much needed rest.
Pierre was sound asleep on the dining room rug, one of his favorite places to sleep, since it has a clear view of the front door, the front hall and the kitchen.
No sooner had I settled down, than he came bouncing into the family room to join me. He jumped up onto the couch and slapped a large, hairy paw on my arm, his usual greeting and also an indication that he needs some attention.
No problem. I actually enjoy our bonding sessions. We talked for a while and I scratched behind his ears. Then I got out my knitting and prepared to enjoy some quiet time with the big dog lying next to me in companionable silence. I should have known better.
As soon as he saw that I had settled down on the extended recliner he insisted on joining me. Pierre stretched out his considerable length right beside me and slowly inched me over until I was squeezed against the chair’s arm and he had taken over most of the recliner.
As though that wasn’t enough, he put up his muzzle to be scratched under the chin. Reluctantly, I put my knitting bag down on the floor, as it became obvious no one could knit in that position. In minutes he was sound asleep.
I know most friendly dogs are exuberant greeters when visitors or family come into the house. Pierre is no exception and I understand this completely. What is difficult to accept is his lack of consideration for people’s personal space, not only when greeting, but all through the day.
Those who have owned a golden retriever are familiar with the term, “golden hug,” when the dog gently leans up against his owner. Pierre has taken this “hug” to a higher level. He is a big, muscular dog and his hugs are powerful. I’ve often been pushed and held against the kitchen counter by these hugs.
Pierre is a very loving dog, but even love sometimes needs space. Still, when I see his glad, toothy smile in the morning, bared front teeth and a wagging tail; when he greets me at the door as though I’ve been away for months; when that shaggy head rests in my lap, I know he’s worth more than any personal space he takes from me.