Saturday, October 10, 2015

Its a dog's life...

I grew up on a midwestern farm with dogs – but the dogs lived in the barn or under the house…They were there as watchdogs, defenders against predatory animals, rat catchers, and catchers of jack rabbits.   They were never invited into the house – even on the coldest nights.  It took me years to become comfortable with the idea of sharing my living space with dogs.

Rusty ( named for his color)
But one spring weekend we visited our son's in-laws who live on a ranch in Northern California - they had outdoor dogs and inside dogs...and the indoor guys were part of the family.  We thought "Huhh - it really is nice having dogs around in the evening..."  So first one, then two Jack Russell terriers came to live with us – and then a third lost mostly Jack Russell showed up on our doorstep,...“just until” we found the owners – and now its six years later and he has become part of the pack.

So meet Roxy, Willy, and Rusty… each with their own peculiarities.  Roxy is the cute little girl dog, sometimes moody, sometimes barky, very independent.  Dear sweet Willy – getting older - but expects his people to gather in the family room each night ( and if we are slow in coming - he comes to round us up...).  Rusty is most feisty and loving - he confused growls and purrs when he is happy.

Miss Roxy is just sure there is a tasty gopher in there somewhere

I am fascinated by the study of animal behavior and  these guys have a lot to teach me...

1.   Be mindful of the moment.  Live in the moment and relish every sight, smell, experience that you encounter.  Come to it – live it fully – then move on - Don't worry about the past or the future… Very Buddhist.  
Willy and his shadow in a meditative mood
2.   Enjoy smells.  “Read” a telephone pole to see who has visited recently – Some animal physiologists think that dogs can even determine the health of other dogs by interpreting the urine odor.  Rusty gets so carried away with the delicious smells of  desiccated worms, poop or dead critters he will roll in the smelly object to carry the lingering smell with him.

Me walking 2 of the pups along the Alameda Creek trail
3.  When you need a little affection its OK to ask for it. Present yourself for rubbing between the ears or a ‘butt’ scratch… not too different from a hug when we need it.  And now research shows that petting a dog causes both you and the dog to produce more Oxytocin, "the feel good hormone"… It lowers your blood pressure, makes you smile!

Mr. Rusty is the only one that will go near water
4.   Sometimes you just need to get out of the house – When I take then for a walk Rusty just takes off running with joy– first in one direction – then the other just because it feels good – I get the same reaction when I hit the trail and just take off exploring.  Great joy comes from simple things.  Adding to the joy is meeting other dogs - but this can be complex - usually social etiquette  says that everybody should sniff each other front and back... but sometimes the encounter requires fierce barking and showing of teeth... I dont get it.

Oh the embarrassing things we do to you

5.   If you are a small dog, nothing could be more fun than finding another dog, preferably a great big dog behind a fence.  Then you are free to bark like you are a huge fierce 'Cujo ' dog.   You can pretend that you are a dog with big fangs and a wild bark…  Sometimes people bluster the same way when driving a car.

"It looked like a nice kitty with a white stripe - I was just going to chase her up a tree..."

6.    The loyalty of dogs is legendary, my guys protect me daily from the postman, from people who walk by in front of the house with a dog on a leash, from opossums that come into the yard with fruit larceny on their minds.  They also love everybody they meet so I’m not sure what that says about gangsters breaking into our house.

7.   My dogs have the most incredible built in sense of reading cues… “Uh Oh he is taking out the oatmeal pot – that means a delicious pot to clean!”  (I hope you aren’t shocked…) when I put on my shoes in the morning it can only mean that its their most favorite time of all - Walk time…  And perish the thought that I remain working at my desk after it gets dark – every body knows that I should be in the family room with the dogs…
Play fight is an important part of life - growling is good!
8.   Dogs know how to really enjoy natural body processes – peeing and pooping are occasions to relish.  Maybe we are missing something.  

Willy (back). Roxy, and our sons dog Rosy...

9.  The ethics of a dog are questionable.  Catch sight of a a squirrel – chase squirrel –  catch squirrel (if you can) – kill it – move on without remorse or guilt...

"I can take him - I can take him"  play fight

10.   My dogs’ memory is amazing – memory of people that they meet rarely, memory of walking routes, memory of which trees once had a squirrel in them, memory of which drawer has the doggy treats.  If we have to be gone on a trip, upon our return we can evaluate the dog-sitter by the dogs’ reaction on seeing us…  “Finally you have returned to save us from this horrible person who didn't even like us very much” or “Oh hi – are you home again?”

John and little baby Roxy

11.  The facial expressions of dogs are under appreciated - Home from a good run - that is smiling if I ever saw it, I couldn't help myself I saw your lunch cooling on the table and I just couldn't resist ( deep remorse), Who is at the front door ( puzzlement),  Are we going for a walk soon? ( questioning)

12.                 Dogs know how to rest well.  After a busy morning, an afternoon snooze is good.  In fact they may rest anytime - except at night if a dastardly cat walks across the patio... "Oh boy - she is asking for it..."   Notice when they get up just  how totally dogs stretch – Makes me feel good just to watch them...

"Oh boy - we love spaghetti"

I think sometimes that it is them training us – training us to give them food and water… training us to tell them they they are a “good dog”, giving pets…Maybe so…  They say, I have trained my people so that when I sit on the ground they give me a treat… they are so easy to fool…