I believe in horse racing, in order to equalize the chances of the competitors, horses are sometimes given a handicap -- lead weights carried in their saddle pads. I'm not sure if my family was trying to equalize anything, but growing up conversations with my father, grandmother, uncles etc. often contained a handicap -- extra emotional baggage attached to almost any subject. These weights remain today. I call them the stickies, and after years of growing up in such a charged environment I grew receptors like Velcro ready to lock onto such content. Nothing was simply what it was. A friend could not sell a farm or take a new job without me having to explain why he might do so, and me, always falling short of a good explanation. A move was not a move, a sale not a sale, extra emotions were applied to the situations like sadness or grief, and the emotions were seldom happy ones. The one friend should not sell his farm; that is sad. The other friend was working to leave his job. He should be thankful to have a job. It didn't matter if the friends were happier to be moving on in their lives. It didn't matter that I was simply trying to relay some information. I frequently assumed the shame and guilt of not being able to adequately explain their reasoning. And, so I learned to take on these emotions and they weighed heavily, a lifelong handicap.
I like that dogs do not wear such baggage. They shake things off. When I brought Alfie to the pool the other day and took her in the water, she swam to the steps, jumped out and shook herself dry. A few weeks ago she was balanced on the back of the sofa when she drifted to sleep and fell. I was scared she might have hurt herself and indeed she looked a little stunned, but she got up off the floor, stood and once again shook vigorously before trotting off.
We have all heard the expression "shake it off," but it is not always an easy thing to do. Some things just seem to stick to us. Dogs don't let things stick. They know how to shake things off and romp and do not let things weigh them down. They seem to walk lighter on the earth and when I am with them I feel lighter, too. The only thing that that sticks to me from my pug is her fur and that is a handicap that I can embrace.