Sunday, July 3, 2016

From The Archives

From February 9th 2013, three years before she died half way through our lives together Cheyenne caused me to stop and ponder the relationship.

Dog Whispering

I choose to live outside the mainstream much of my life mostly because I've never seen the value of the mainstream logic of a lot of things. God puzzled me because I couldn't figure out why God behaves the way adults told me God does things. I fell away from religion and spirituality because I couldn't follow the logic. People with kids puzzle me massively, and children have never figured as part of my life. I've watched people with their dogs and I've never figured that logic either. When people ask I say that if there were no pounds I'd not have a dog. The logic of buying a brand new dog when the country is awash in unwanted animals defeats me. There are rescue services for every imaginable brand of dog, and google is there to connect people with their most abstruse animal desires. Yet people continue to raise dogs like cattle and flog 'em to people who want a live accessory. And when they get tired of them they dump them for suckers like me to pick up.
I've read a fair bit about dogs and years ago I took an obedience class which worked beyond my wildest hopes and over the years I have come to the conclusion that dogs (and children) lack discipline and boundaries and it makes them crazy. I can't figure for the life of me why people have kids and not realize its a lifetime commitment of chasing after the brats and making sure they get their shit done. But it's the same with dogs and to have a hope of making it work you have to make a commitment to the animal and the time it needs. The rationale that a large dg needs a big yards the common fallacynthatcondemns big dogs like Cheyenne to death in pounds across the country. Dogs are pack animals and they want to be part of the family, their pack. To shut a dog alone in a yard is solitary confinement of the type we condemn the worst or poorest criminals to suffer. No wonder they bark madly when Cheyenne lumbers by enjoying the freedom they never taste. But I also know that I have to be able to think like a dog. I don't have the capacity to think like a kid so I know I don't want to raise one of those creatures. When I picked Cheyenne up from the pound on Stock Island three years ago I made a promise to myself she wasn't going to spend another minute staring through a fence watching the world pass her by. You can tell from the picture she was ready to be let loose on the world.
Cheyenne came from a military family who dumped her because at eight she was too old. Extrapolating from what the SPCA told me and the vet observed and what I saw myself she had been bought and used to produce pedigree puppies. She lived on a chain in her later years and slept on the ground, a habit she keeps to this day much like a human with PTSD. She cowered when I waved the paper around (politics makes me crazy sometimes) and she refused to step in the kitchen. She used to be taken on runs I am pretty sure but I stopped that practice dead. From the first day she ambled and took her time and loved to stick her nose in stuff and snort and sniff like a four legged vacuum cleaner sucking up the smells of life itself. On a hot walk she likes to find a mud hole and rest in it. She does the same in the ocean but she never swims. Sometimes the results require a bath whether I'm in the mood or not. "Your dogs dirty!" some mental deficient will announce when they cross paths with my dog being a dog. Every problem has its solution and mine is fresh water, as long is comes out of the faucet in these times of extended drought everywhere.
I set the boundaries fairly broadly for Cheyenne. I have a dog for company so to ban her from the furniture means I get to sit on the couch with my dog out of reach. Mainstream logic whose sense escapes me. I feed Cheyenne the food she likes and she doesn't eat the stuff she doesn't like. I don't feed her from the table because tha encourages begging but I don't mind if she gets human food for treats in her own bowl. Cheyenne has a dog door and she come and go as she pleases. She likes to sunbathe from time to time and sometimes she goes downstairs to sit in her sand bed and watch the boats in the canal. She never goes out into the street but there are no fences; she stays because she likes being here. Cheyenne's an easy dog to live with not least because when I say no I mean it. I don't call her unless I need her and if I do need her I whistle and she comes. When we have friends over she lays down and sleeps and people who don't like dogs say Cheyenne is a dog they like. They used to say that about Emma who I rescued when she was two, and about Debs who was six and a self willed husky I bent to my will. I am not alone in my appreciation of rescue dogs.

Blogger Christopher Shepherd said...
My most recent dog adoption was from FKSPCA, a bull mix who had spent several months during summer 2012 chained in a yard in Stock Island before the county finally took him away (after which point, he was kenneled at the SPCA for several more months). He is an incredible dog, though, joyful, living only to please, and not the least bit obnoxious. I guess what I'm saying is, by chaining a dog outside, you not only violate the law and cheat the dog of happiness, but you cheat yourself of something amazing.
Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 1:18:00 PM EST

And then I read this article in Slate magazine, a sweet story that left me asking myself: why isn't every day a perfect day for a dog? Dogs don't spend their days figuring it ways to screw you, dogs appreciate kindness and share their fun with you every chance they get. I want every day to be perfect for Cheyenne, it's not that hard to do.
My freestyle non conformist dog training doesn't go over well with some people. On the streets fearful dog owners think their animals are always ready to fight and often do,you hear some ineffectual dog owner tell their animal to "be nice," like it's an eight year old in a playground. Dogs growl at their puppies train them so I growl at Cheyenne when she is paying more attention to smells than to me. When I say No! I mean it. If I have to say it more than once Cheyenne gets to hear me growl and she doesn't like it one bit. If she ever pulled me on her leash I would let her know in no uncertain terms who is the boss but most dog walkers I meet seem to have no clue how to set boundaries. And then I find myself charged with being irresponsible in the gentlest possible way.
I appreciate and relate to your excellent commentaries, especially your kinship with your dog. I have 2 large mixed mutts lab/border collie and lab/rottweiler, most excellent dogs who have been with me virtually every second of their lives, walked and exercised daily. They are in top shape, I keep them on a diet of Diamond brand chow from Tractor Supply (store brand of Nutro), it's great stuff, no corn or wheat filler. Since my wife and I recently quit eating processed foods and grains we have gotten in fantastic shape in our late 50s. We've found that it's more about healthy diet and nutrition than exercise. Dogs are not omnivores like humans, their dietary needs are much more narrowly defined.
At the risk of sounding critical I'm surprised you let your dog eat garbage on the street, that stuff is very detrimental to a dog's health even when it's fresh. We usually carry a few quality dog treats on walks and hand those out as positive reinforcement here and there as appropriate.
Peace, Love, Dogs...
After her shower Cheyenne has to suffer the indignity of a towel which as she has no self image to sustain doesn't bother her in the least. Actually she likes a firm toweling and she chases me tail wagging until she feels like she's had enough. That she looks like Dougal from The Magic Roundabout means nothing to her. Nor to you either as you weren't watching the BBC just before the six o'clock news during the 1970s.
Here, in an effort to keep you in the loop is an episode featuring Dougal the unwilling flying dog:YouTube . That's five minutes you won't get back in your valuable life...

Meanwhile, my dog far from flying likes to take a post bath rest in her sand pit. Which requires further towel rubbing before she can get into the house...she's a wicked creature.
In the final analysis a child is a child, not a "small adult." With good luck money love and nurturing a child may become an adult but a child is not an adult. In the same vein a dog is not a human and I don't muddle her up and mistake her for one. She is a hound and she likes to hunt. I can't teach her to read so I let her exercise her mind the way a dog needs to, by chasing smells and following trails and figuring where they lead. I try not to tear her away in the middle of the story and if it leads to wasted food tipped by some thoughtless human so be it. It's not going to kill her most likely and if the odds are against her so be it. It's the same rationale I use to ride a motorcycle instead of driving a highly safety rated cage.
At some level we all project. Our kids grow up watching their parents and we are told if you want your children to read parents should be seen to be reading by their offspring. It seems odd to me to want to cage my dog when I dislike being caged myself.
I haven't a clue why we exist or what the meaning of life is and Cheyenne offers me no enlightenment. My only satisfying conclusion to that conundrum is a line from another British TV show and unlikely font of stark philosophy, Fawlty Towers. As Basil Fawlty struggles against an uncaring fate and an angry wife, who can blame her, he announces at one point that this is the life we're stuck with and we have to get on with it. Cheyenne helps me do that.
And that dog lives a better life that most humans on the planet. Americans bitch about foreign aid which amounts to about 30 billion dollars spent annually to allieviate poverty and buy goodwill. We Americans spend 45 billion on our pets. I don't know what you think about that but as far as I'm concerned every day is a perfect day for Cheyenne, garbage and all. And in a world where we grow more food than ever and other people starve there shouldn't be perfectly good food thrown away every single goddamned day on our streets. That's the crime not my dog cleaning it up.