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Friday, November 13, 2015

POST #47: THE LAST DOG BLOG (more to come)

So far, my 30 Plus years of dog ownership have taught me that I always have more to learn.  I should never be complacent in thinking I know the right way to do things.


 
I have learned that dogs can fly.


 
I have learned about trust and I have learned about the value of being dependable.

I have learned about silent companionship.

 

I have learned about forgiveness.


 
I have learned about jealousy.


 
I have learned how to be a better neighbor.
I have learned the importance of a good veterinarian.


 
I have learned about aging gracefully and acceptance of the physical changes that come with age.



 
I have learned about showing respect.



 
I have learned to never underestimate a dog’s loyalty.  Do not ever underestimate his or her ability to be protective of the pack.


 
I have learned that dogs can climb trees.  But that they need help coming back down.


 
I have learned that sleeping with dogs is not such a bad thing.  Unless it is in the summer and you have no air conditioning.



 
I have learned how to be brave even when facing an unknown threat.
I have learned the value of teamwork when facing down a threat.


 
I have learned how to step in and help or to take charge when others are scared.
I have learned a lot about unconditional love.  Loving someone and being loyal to them is possible even when you have been neglected and left outside to fend for yourself.
I have learned about the depth of grief for the loss of a loved one, and the sense of powerlessness when you watch the loved one die, or the guilt over feeling that you haven’t done everything in your power to stop the loss.




 


I have learned that sometimes you really can’t undo your past.  All you can do is learn from your mistakes and go forward.  I have learned that mistakes hurt.  But, if you pay attention you really do become a better person.

Living with dogs has helped me grow in my own capacities for human emotions.  Many folks say that a dog is an animal, and animals do not have the capacity for emotion.  A dog’s place was outside according to my grandparents.  They were part of the livestock, and they had a job to do: protect the other livestock. I’ve had friends tell me they would never allow a dog into their house because they are messy and dirty. 

I got mixed messages from my parents while growing up.  Sometimes our dogs would be allowed inside, but my parents’ attitude still seemed to be one of “they are only animals.”

I shared that opinion when we got our first dog, Spike, and continued with our second dog, Katie.  We wouldn’t let them in the house, except on rare occasions.  We treated them more like animals than family members. 

Opening our home to PD, and then Henry, and then Frank has really changed my mind about a dog’s capacity for emotion.  These dogs, pets, family members have changed my mind about my capacity to learn of my own humanity and emotional attachments.

They’ve also changed my mind about dirt.  I mean really, is dirt that evil?  People lived on dirt floors for centuries, and it brushes right off.  Surely it isn’t healthy for you to avoid contact with all dirt.

Whether they were outdoors dogs or inside dogs, they have all helped me learn about unconditional love, and all of the emotions that come along with that kind of love.

My dogs will continue to amaze me and to amuse me.  And I am sure there are new lessons out there for me to learn from PD and Frank.  But for now, it is time to say goodbye to those of you who have been reading along with me.  It is time to put these musing about living with dogs aside.  I have enjoyed writing these memories.  The writings have helped to examine my own thoughts, feelings and behavior, and have helped me gain some self-insight.  Hopefully, these have been of interest to you, the reader, as well.

Thank you Spike.  Thank you Katie, Thank you Henry.  Thank you PD and Frank for the lessons you have taught me.




And thank you, Reader, for following along as I’ve relived the adventures I have shared with these wonderful family members.  

Friday, November 6, 2015

POST #46: DOGGY ADDICTION

Frank has an addiction.  I know this is an addiction because he spends all of his time and energy trying to get to this substance.  He continues to seek it, despite experiencing negative consequences.  And it seems like he craves more and more.  Those are all signs of an addiction.


His addictive substance?

Frogs!

 

Frank spends all evening looking for them.  Unfortunately, this year happened to be exceptionally wet during the spring and early summer.  Which means that this is an exceptionally froggy year.

It started out innocently enough.  We had a couple of toads in our backyard in our little patio home on Balboa.  Frank pursued just one toad.  We were able to stop him from eating it, but Frank remembered the bitter taste, and he remembered the thrill of the hunt.

Yes, Frank is a thrill-seeker, too.


 
Most toads and frogs emit a toxic substance through their skin.  This is supposed to discourage predators from eating them.  Frank, on the other hand, seems to enjoy the taste, the bitterness, and tingly sensation in his mouth, and the way his saliva will start foaming out of his mouth.  He sees nothing wrong with shaking his head and slinging slobber all over the floor, himself, and anyone who happens to be standing nearby.  Slinging the foamy slobber onto his face and back allows him to actually wear the frog toxin.  Maybe this is some kind of badge of achievement among those dogs who are addicted to frogs.  Maybe it just serves to remind him of the fun and joy he’s had chasing down the frogs.

PD and Henry both went through a phase when they thought frogs were worthy prey.  But they both grew tired of the game, and they didn’t care for the after – effects of the foamy mouth.

Frank, however, just can’t seem to get enough.


 
This has been a year of rain, rather than drought.  And with so many years of drought behind us, the few surviving frogs in the area got busy making tadpoles.  I cannot take a single step into my yard without setting at least three frogs into motion.

And Frank wants to play with every one of them.  Frank is mostly addicted to the chase.  When he finds a frog, he will start by barking.  Most prey know that it is best to sit still, try to blend into the background, and hope the predator can’t see them.  So, when Frank starts barking, the frogs will freeze in place.

This is not what Frank wants!  He wants a chase.  So, he puts his nose, and sometimes his mouth, on the frog.  The frog jumps.  Frank is happy.  His tail wags.  And he barks again.  He wants more!  Frank keeps barking at the frog to keep it moving.  Every time the frog stops, Frank touches it to get it going again.  Sometimes, the poor frog gets really tired.  Frank has to get more aggressive, giving the frog a little nip.  This is usually when his mouth starts to foam, and the excitement grows.

 

Unfortunately, Frank will get too aggressive at times.  He’ll accidently kill the frog.  I don’t think Frank intends to do this.  I’m not real sure he understands what he’s done.  Frank will keep barking and lunging at the poor dead frog.  He just doesn’t understand why the frog has quit jumping.  His toy is broken, and he can’t get it to move again.

Eventually, Frank will give up and go inside. 

When possible, I will go outside and intervene in the frog’s (and neighbors’) behalf.  Sometimes, a simple command to “settle” will be enough.  But usually, I have to try to stand between Frank and the frog so that I can herd Frank back into the house.

The frog never seems to understand that I am on his side.  The result is that the three of us do this silly dance, going in circles.  Frank is trying to get to the frog.  The frog is trying to get away from both of us.  And I’m trying to figure out where the frog went so that I can get between the other two.  During this dance, I am also challenged with trying to not step on the frog.



I’m looking forward to cooler weather and fewer frogs.