Spring is a good time to retire. The world is returning to life — grass greening, flowers and trees budding, birds singing about making babies, days getting longer — and it makes my sap rise, too. I’m full of energy and projects.

Oh, nothing too spectacular. Working with Maureen to split and stack some seasoned wood left over in the yard, talking to my local librarian about offering a program on Mary Oliver, cleaning this and putting away that. But it comes to me at odd moments: this is my life now. I have to/get to create it, all but a small sliver. No more externally imposed routine for most of my waking hours. I think that’s what is so energizing.

I took Rosie for a walk up the hill behind our house the other afternoon, and we ran into a neighbor and her dog, a mixed-breed rescue from somewhere far away. Heather and Tito came down the hill toward us, and Rosie was barking her head off at the other dog. She has very little experience of socializing with other dogs, because our other dog does not “play nice” with her (or most other dogs), so we keep them apart.

Rosie was both excited about meeting a new dog and afraid. When they got close, Heather sat down on the rocks, holding Tito on a fairly short leash so Rosie could approach and back away while she sized him up. Tito barked a little, but he was really good, letting Rosie sniff him several times.

Eventually, Heather took off the leash. Naturally, Tito wanted to check out Rosie, too. She was still skittish, coming over to me and putting her front paws up on my leg to “touch base” every so often, but she was liking this new dog and the novelty of making a canine friend. Eventually, they started chasing each other around, looking like they were both having a pretty good time. With more exposure, I think Rosie would get really comfortable playing with Tito and would enjoy it a lot.

Heather and I helped the dogs make friends by talking to them, telling them both how good they were and giving Rosie, the more timid one, time to feel safe. It’s tempting to think there might be some lessons there for helping people learn to interact with others who are different from them.

Of course it would be easy to oversimplify and romanticize the whole process. Whatever their past, dogs who have lived a while with loving owners carry relatively little baggage compared to their human counterparts, and the barriers between humans can be much more complicated than the social difficulties of most dogs.

Still, for both species the bottom line seems to be needing to make sure the other party isn’t going to hurt them, whether “hurt” means a bite on the flank or a challenge to one’s cherished beliefs.

One important way Tito signaled to Rosie that he didn’t want to hurt her was letting her sniff him. According to my online research, dogs get a lot of information from this act, and the ritual of smelling itself, performed since puppyhood, soothes them. They learn each other’s gender, mood, state of health and whether they have met before, along with other information.

Tito’s show of submission in letting Rosie sniff first helped to reassure her. Perhaps that’s the takeaway for us humans: be willing to let the other person talk more while you listen. Instead of thinking how to rebut their argument or formulating your point, seek to understand their point of view and how they came to it. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with them. But it might set the stage for further acquaintance. Treating someone with kindness is a good way to start liking them more.

Sarah E. Reynolds is a former editor of The Republican Journal. She has lived in the Midcoast for about 20 years.