The Self-Actualized Terrier: Happy In the Field
A repost from this blog, circa 2007
A working terrier loves to work -- it lives for that magic moment when the scent drifts up from the hole and its genetic code explodes within, taking everything else with it like a tidal bore.
A working terrier lives for this. It would rather work than eat, drink or rest.
For a working terrier, finding quarry underground is what psychologist Abraham Maslow called a "peak experience" -- something that creates a nearly mystical feeling of intense happiness and sense of well-being leading to an awareness of the "ultimate truth" and the unity of all things in the Universe.
People who do not work their terriers will never understand this, and neither will those who see dogs as merely something to breed, show, sell, or brag about.
The working terrier does not exist for these ends; it exists for its own purposes. The work itself is a self-validating experience for the dog; it tells him what he is, and that he is right for this world. The dog does not give a damn about ribbons and rosettes, but it cares about the work as much as life itself.
Every time the working terrier faces the hole, it must decide whether it is willing to face the unknown thing that lies ahead in the dark, or the known emptiness that lies behind in the light. Or, as Abraham Maslow put it when describing the human condition:
"One can choose to go back toward safety
or forward toward growth. Growth must
be chosen again and again; fear must
be overcome again and again."
The working terrier chooses growth. It may feel fear at the unknown thing that lies ahead, but it works to harness that fear and channel it into intelligent choices.
A good working terrier is not foolishly brave; it makes the calculation behind the calculated risk.
When push comes to shove, however, it goes forward to face the unknown. As a result, the working terrier has a new and slightly different peak experience at every hole, and with every successful hole comes a stronger sense of self, a greater confidence, and a fuller happiness. In the end, no matter how long its longevity, the working terrier has had a life worth living. Can we ask more for a dog? Can we ask more for ourselves?