09/08/2010 02:20 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Big Man, Little Dog

Lately I have been noticing a new phenomenon ... well not so new, it seems to have arrived in my noticing about two years ago.  I OFTEN see these very masculine looking men in their trucks with a dog the size of a Dorito.  Little teeny dogs and sometimes they have rhinestone collars. This is not in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco mind you, but the very tame and suburban Marin County to the north. I am deeply curious about this situation.

I live in a neighborhood with a lot of working men -- carpenters, plumbers, painters, firemen, arborists, contractors -- and frankly, I love it. I live alone and often need advice on the more mechanical and spatial aspects of life. I love this part of the masculine. I admire the chivalry and the readiness and the capacity to think in ways I do not. This type of readiness to help in a man is very sexy and I feel protected by my neighborhood guys.  If I ever need help, they are there. Recently I got locked out of my house (yes, a pot of water boiling on the stove)  and I went to my neighbor to call a locksmith and he said "why call a locksmith, young maiden?" (Okay they young maiden part is a lie.) But before I knew it he and his friend were out the door, in their socks no less, climbing the outer walls of my house, catapulting over the moat and storming the castle keep. No problem ... I will just climb the wall with no ladder and open your window so your house does not burn down.  Simple.

I also live on the back road route to the all hardware stores and the more industrial part of town, so I see many BIG manly trucks on their way to work in the morning.  And quite often out the drivers side window I see the little doggie head bobbing. Please tell me what is this all about?

Even though I am not a psychologist, I will voice my perspective. We all know that life is nothing but projection. We project onto our bosses, our partners, friends and even our car. They are all reflections of some aspect of ourselves that we are not living.  I used to be attracted to women friends that were very nurturing and mother-like which I learned was an aspect of myself that needed further development. When I claimed this part, started nurturing myself, many of those friendships just ended.  And then there were the five Ph.D.'s I dated in a row -- physicist, statistician, geneticist, ecologist and a combo JD and International policy Ph.D. from Stanford.  I did not chose them because they were Ph.D.'s, it just HAPPENED that way. Clearly I was to learn something. Luckily I saw this pattern and paid attention.  From that experience, I understood that somehow I had to claim and honor my own intelligence, or my type of intelligence, and the pattern ended. I then moved on to the body -- massage therapist, dancer, chef, carpenter ... I am sure you see where I am going...

About 15 years ago I met the first love of my life, a dog named Raven (mind you she was a black Lab New Foundland mix and 90 pounds). She was the first being I ever let love me ... I truly let her into the fortress I had erected to protect my heart. There was a deep and loving connection between us and we went everywhere together. She loved me without regard for what I looked like, how I behaved or my success in the world. (It did not hurt that I took her swimming every day.) But this is not news, there is a certain vulnerability and openness that can occur with a pet, a level of trust that is established where you know you will not be hurt. They are simply devoted to you. In that relationship I learned how to give to another being, for she was vulnerable and depended upon me. She also taught me how to begin to receive love -- I think one of the hardest lessons I have ever had to learn, and continue to learn.

So back to the little dogs.  Let's examine what I think they might symbolize.  It is clear that they are little, vulnerable, cute, and need protection. You can cuddle and hold them in your lap; you can even talk to them in a baby talk (which I have also heard and even DO!)  With a little dog one could feel like a protector, and powerful in that role.

So what does all this say about projection onto these little dogs? Could it be a part of these men needs to feel held and protected -- a vulnerable, powerless aspect that feels small and cannot be expressed to other people because of cultural conditioning?  Because of fear of humiliation? Men are not supposed to be vulnerable, especially these men who make their living in such physical and "manly" fields.

I find this situation quite hopeful.  For centuries men have had to play a certain role that would not allow for their softer, more feminine aspects to be developed, seen or expressed. And this has had terrible consequences for their inner and physical health, their personal relationships, our communities and the earth. I know this is changing rapidly, but it seems there has now been infiltration into a very well protected aspect of the patriarchal definition of manhood ... by way of the little Chihuahua.

Go little guy!