Thursday, November 6, 2014

For The Love Of Dogs

I'm a dog lover.
When I say that, I don't mean that I have some teen girl relationship with dogs w
here I feel the need to collect them like porcelain dolls. I don't have a sweate
r with my dogs likeness lovingly stitched into it. I don't have a coffee cup with a witty quip about dogs. I don't even own anything that would indicate I have a dog other than the necessities of dog ownership, e.g., bowl, leash, brush, dog food storage bin.
What I mean by saying I'm a dog lover is that I think there is something in the relationship with a dog that can bring on a symbiosis of spirit. There is a raw connection with the animal that goes beyond words. We have co-evolved to have, use and love dogs as part of our family. When our rudimentary ancestors needed to survive cold winters and hunt game beyond the limits of their tools they turned to their dogs and vise verse the dogs looked to us for their provision. Even today looking into our primate relatives this connection lives on. This video shows baboons capturing feral dog puppies and raising them as part of their family to protect their group in African trash heaps. They lovingly groom them as part of their bond as one of the family.

I've had dogs my entire life. I love nothing more than taking my relationship with my dogs to a level where neither of us is ever in doubt as to what is needed from each other. We both enjoy doing things together and we feel no stress over being apart. It's not just me wanting to be confident in my dog I want him to be confident in with me. If you knew the dog I have now then you would know how enjoyable a perfectly behaved and loving dog can be. He is envied by just about everyone. Not just because of his calm demeanor or the fact that he almost never shows signs of stress or distrust, but also because he is big, fluffy and loveable. He treats everyone with the same affection as he shows me.

Can I take credit for all that my dog is? of course not! We are a partnership, I have a responsibility to be a good companion in equal measure to his. Dogs should not be chosen based on how cute you think they are alone. They should not be bred to have a certain look to them. Breeds that are nothing more than an intriguing experiment into humans abilities to push genetics to their limit, in my opinion, represent a complete failure in the humans role regarding the relationship with dogs.  I have a particular lifestyle and my dog should reflects that. Breeds should be chosen based on their ability to fit in and adapt to the lifestyle of my family not because I think they are the cutest. I recently watched a TED talk and what struck me first is that most of the dogs that have this "Separation Anxiety" are from breeds originally developed to be livestock guardian dogs. It is in their soul to protect their flock an
d in the absence of livestock you become their surrogate. You leaving for work means they have failed in being able to protect you and they are driven to compulsion by their genetics. I feel it's unfair to have these breeds outside of their breeding.

We once owned a very neurotic Weimaraner who I never really related to and wasn't able to train. In retrospect I can see that there was no real failing on his part, I can firmly put any failings in our relationship on myself. He was bred to be a hunting dog, specifically water foul and I, not being a hunter, didn't relate to his compulsion. When we took him to ponds I would at first laugh, then get annoyed and then get angry that all he wanted to do was swim and chase ducks and geese. At the time I don't think I understood the connection there since I wasn't very familiar with the breed. In retrospect I should have altered my life to include his instincts instead of avoiding ponds so I didn't have to deal with him not wanting to get out when I was ready. In his mind this might be his only chance at being truly happy and he would do anything to stay as long as possible. His world was dominated by a life he didn't fit into and people who didn't understand him. I'm sure there is a very deep allegory here to parents who have disabled children but I don't think I'm qualified to make it. Maybe someone else could comment on it.

Like most things in our modern world that make me crazy is I think we spend too much time forcing things to exist out of the environment they need to thrive. We do it with our livestock, we do it with our pets and we certainly do it with ourselves. In this case I would encourage everyone to pick breeds or mixes of breeds that fit our lifestyle and if we end up with a breed that isn't a great fit trying our hardest to accommodate them. I encourage this because when the relationship is right, it's one of the most rewarding experiences a human can have. There might be a few :"bad" dogs, but there are many more bad owners, MANY MORE, and more bad situations. Let's do our best to address all the issues, not just one.
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