What is it about dogs? I grew up running pastures and playing in snow banks with several good farm dogs, but jobs and travel have kept me from owning dogs since, so I marvel at what people will do for a dog that, for all intents and purposes, has become a member of the family.
|Pass the mustard and ketchup, please.|
It hit me again this week. A work colleague gave us a humorous but concerned account about her sixteen-year-old cockapoo that ate a sock. Decision time. Spend hundreds of dollars on an endoscopy, get an X-ray to learn if the sock was on the move, or just wait to see if everything works out all right in the end. At press time, the saga continues, but option three is the choice so far.
Another colleague not only raises dogs, she trains them for the “best in show” circuit. As she points out, owners are willing to spend thousands on obedience training—from the traditional “drill sergeant” style to a newer “positive reinforcement” method. I’m not sure the soft approach would have worked on our farm. “Come here please, Bruno. I know you’re just trying to show your affection for our barn cat, but I think it’s time to release him from your jaws. That’s it; good boy.”
A college student working with us reports that her family has six dogs on their Illinois farm. “One for each family member,” she says. “They aren’t ‘house dogs,’ but they definitely become part of our family. I grew up playing hide and seek with my dog.”
Speaking of farm dogs, my sister and her husband have a menagerie at their place. The dogs have performed acts of bravery with cantankerous cows, acts of near-tragedy by tangling with a farm implement (that led to a hefty vet bill), and acts of stupidity by sparring with skunks (who knew that car washes now double as pet washes). But their dogs have personality. Bertie, a Great Dane, sits in the truck like an old tobacco chewin’ farmer riding shotgun, and on Friday nights, she travels to the folks’ home place for the weekly bout of cards, “tonicas,” and tacos. She basically just lies on the floor, eats, and drools, but that can be said about certain humans I’ve spent Friday evenings with also.
What really got me into this dog mood was an article by Baxter Black: “The Right Dog for the Right Occasion.” He explains that dogs have different personalities depending on geography and breed. As he says, “Subtle does not describe deep south dogs. If Border Collies are like firing rubber bullets at your stock, Hound Dogs are like chasing them with a backhoe. They push, spook, and scare cows along, rather than coaxing them.”
As with many folks from rural backgrounds, Mr. Black has an obvious love of dogs. I looked back at a blog I wrote earlier this year—“Many ‘Best in Show’ Dogs Live Down on the Farm”—and it makes me think I really do have a soft spot for old Smoky and Frisky, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt that a dog is part of my family.
So maybe I could take on a different role—maybe I should learn to be a “Dog Owner Whisperer.” How hard could it be? I’d just meet clients regularly to assure them that “yes, dogs are people too. You’re no more crazy than any other loving dog owner.” Then again, maybe the job would necessitate some deeper research at times. Does anyone know if socks are biodegradable? by dan gogerty (photo from tumblr.com)