At the end of the chapter, after talking about ways dogs use their whiskers (or vibrissae, if you want to get technical) and feel pain, he writes:
"One form of touch that humans find pleasurable but most dogs hate is hugging. For dogs, the experience of hugging is perceived as confining and restricting his movements ... When you hug a dog you effectively immobilize him, which raises his anxiety level. Most dogs will struggle to free themselves from the restraints of her arms, and some may become anxious enough to snap or threaten in order to break loose."
I felt badly when I read that, because one of my favorite things to do is hug Scout. He doesn't struggle to get free but I've noticed he doesn't seem too thrilled with me either, and when I let go he bolts as fast as he can.
I never understood why he couldn't understand that I just love him so much that sometimes I want to wrap my arms around him and hold him close.
Then again, do I really like it when God hugs me?
1 John 5:3 says that God's commands are not burdensome, but sometimes it doesn't feel that way. Don't do this, don't do that, stop, sit, stay. And stay and stay and stay. I grew up believing that God's role was to make up rules and mine was to follow them ... or else. I never really believed God loved me as much as he wanted to control me.
But as I've matured in my faith I've learned that there are really less rules than I'd been taught. In fact, when you come right down to it, just two: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:36-39)
God gave us rules and boundaries for our own good - physical and spiritual good. His desire is not to control us, but to engage in a loving relationship with us. And every relationship has boundaries, and those boudaries are set out of love.
I don't let Scout roam the neighborhood, even though he'd like that. There are too many dangers. But I also don't chain him up. He has complete reign of our yard, and within those boundaries he's safe. He doesn't seem to mind.
So I guess when it comes right down to it, God's overwhelming love for me can sometimes seem as confining as my hugs feel to Scout. That's why it' so important to grow in our faith, to read the Bible, to ask questions, and to ponder what it really means to love God and to feel his love.
I've stopped hugging Scout, and instead have started using a massage technique that dogs love, where you apply firm pressure in a rotating motion on the dog's shoulders and neck. Not only does Scout not squirm away, when I stop, he nudges me for more.