Thursday, August 21, 2008
Man's best friend
Look at those faces, how can you resist them? Aren't they sweet, cuddly, don't they look like they will love you forever? What do they have in common. They're all strays waiting for adoption. Have you ever seen the TLC series, "It's me or the dog"? I suspect that while the X-mas was in residence we probably resembled a few episodes. While he and the hound maintained a mutual admiration society, he was always of the opinion that the mutt was spoilt and allowed too many privileges in the home. Notice he is the X-man and the dog still sleeps at the foot of the bed.
But my love for animals and in particular dogs is not confined to just mine. Most places I go, I end up befriending someone's dog; on vacation several dogs came over to hang out on my mat while I lay on the beach. An unapologetic dog person. I think people who are cruel to animals should suffer, painfully. I suspect, even though I raised pedigree dogs, if I had a yard of my own now it would be filled with strays.
My mother used to have two pound puppies, when they got to her house they were trembling, anemic looking characters of uncertain parentage. The scragglier of the two, a black male was quickly named Hagar, after the cartoon Hagar the horrible, in the hope that names are power and he would overcome his shaky beginnings. Mum was a really soft touch and those dogs got home cooked meals every day, cod liver oil for their coats and huge amounts of love. They thrived, Hagar quickly grew into a large dog, much bigger than expected, Helga, the female and Oscar, our "min-sation" were dwarfed, his personality was also larger than life. Those two dogs showered on my family a love, protectiveness and loyalty far surpassing anything we gave to them.
People are always telling me horror stories about the perils of owning large dogs. How they turn and savage their owner, the unpredictability etc. I've owned lots of dogs in my life, most of them large breed, including Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Pit Bulls etc. never had any real trouble. Every dog handler or dog trainer I've ever worked with has taught me it is how you socialise your animal.
Disney has a lot to answer for, for years they've taken animals and given them human characteristics; dogs are not people, they have different behaviours to us that are, but, even like people, you can get a dog that is an anomaly who will go bad. Mostly though, when dogs turn it is because they have perceived an act of aggression against themselves and dealt with it as animals do. Your dog should not be your kid's babysitter, things that might appear cute to you might constitute something else in doggie hierarchal systems.
I started writing this piece because I get tired of seeing all the stray dogs around, abandoned, still breeding, making even more strays. People, be responsible, if you have a pet, spay or neuter your animal if you don't intend to breed them, or keep them locked up while in heat. If you cannot take care of your dog, don't get one in the first place, or instead of turning it loose, call the Animal Welfare folks, they will try to find it a good home.
If you do it right, you and your pet will have many happy hours together.