When squared upon, the Hannya mask is an angry and imposing visage. Yet, a slight tilt of its head can bring sorrow and pain into view.
As our dogs become older, behaviors that once elicited joy, laughter, and even a bit of egging on become moments of anger. Laughter is replaced by an angry voice telling our dogs to calm down when they are jumping around or getting off the bed by themselves. Our body language has changed from the relaxed joy these behaviors once elicited to a nervous, tense, and yes, even angry posture. Our dogs must wonder what has caused us to don the Hannya mask.
In the most general of terms the Hannya mask is used in certain Noh (Japanese Dance Theatre) plays to depict a woman that has been turned into a demon because of jealousy. The jealousy in this case, triggered by the signs that Father Time is going to take the all too short life of our beloved companions.
Gender assignment of the Hannya mask and Father Time aside, I believe this is something that we all are subject to. Guilt, fear, jealousy, and anger are all intertwined lovers that are nonetheless part of the human condition. Some days we are better about controlling them than others. We all want our dogs to live as long as they possibly can, and so, we become behavior hawks. Frustratingly discouraging those things we believe are detrimental to our dog’s longevity no matter how inane they may seem.
And as guilt turns to anger and ager turns to guilt we sometimes forget to forgive our dogs for just being dogs, and ourselves for just being human.
Remember that even though we sometimes unconsciously wear the Hannya mask, we can forgive ourselves and take it off; enjoying our dogs for what they are in the here and now and allowing them to slip back to puppyhood, even if only for a little while.