You Think People are Funny? How about Dogs
I’d like to tell you about some of the dogs I’ve either owned — well, I don’t like to use the verb owned because when you have a dog, it’s not too distant from having a partner.
I can’t say partner in the sense of having a wife because a dog never (you should pardon the expression) hounds you night and day without your usually knowing why or what you did or did not do. About the only surefire thing in marriage is that whatever you do or don’t do, will turn out to be wrong…and you’re going to hear about it. Hear about it plenty until the next item pops up.
Okay. My first companion dog who I only remember from the stories my mother told me later, was a female named Bonnie. I was very small and I understand that when I had a dirty diaper, Bonnie would drag me onto the back porch and bark until Mom came out and took care of the situation.
But Bonnie, according to my mother, played an even more important role in that other dogs often came and played around in the yard. Bonnie apparently enjoyed their visits, but—if I was out there, none of the other dogs were allowed in the yard. I imagine that was Bonnie’s mother instinct coming into play.
My first real memory of a dog was a stray that wandered in one day. Little guy was sick and hungry. My Mom nourished him and pretty soon we had a new member in the house. I don’t remember how he got his name, Packy, but that big old lumbering dog with thick multi-colored hair turned out to be a real guardian.
Later, as a teenager, I found a job as a busboy but had to work until something like midnight. After work, it was waiting a long time for a bus and then riding for half an hour to my stop. From the bus stop, the jaunt to my home was about six blocks. Every night as I got off the bus, I saw Packy loping down the street to meet me, or sometimes he’d got there first. I never did figure out how he knew what time I was coming home.
After Packy had passed away, a partner of my uncle who raised dachshunds part-time, gave me a pup. He was about the size of a young rat. I named him Max and he turned out to be much more clever than I’d have expected. I kept Max’s leash in the hall closet (no door; just a curtain) and soon when I mentioned going for a walk, Max would run into the hall and return with his leash, ready to go.
Once when my uncle came to visit, he decided to go to a store a few blocks away. Max looked interested so my uncle took him along in the car.
From that day forward, when my uncle came to visit, Max ran into the hall and returned with his leash and my kindly uncle had to give Max a ride around the block.
Max had been trained to scratch at the door when he had to use the exterior bathroom facilities. One rainy evening I opened the door for Max. He took one look at the downpour and stepped back, squatted, and pooped on the floor. He looked at me, knowing he had done a bad thing, and ran to hide behind a big oil heater.
Eventually, grown and married by then, my wife and I were strolling around a big flea market when we saw a couple with a beautiful red dachshund riding in their shopping cart. Loving animals as I do, and being especially partial to doxies, I just had to pet this boy.
Twenty minutes later my wife said, “I just ran into those people around the corner and they have to find a home for that dog.”
We hurried back and found the couple. We later realized that Stanley and the man’s wife weren’t particularly fond of one another either.
The man said Stanley (the doxie’s name) had to be left alone with his wife’s mother all day and neither meshed very well. As the owner of the house, the unwell (and deaf) mother’s word was law: either Stanley goes or the whole family goes. End of story.
I didn’t have a lot of spending money at the time but finally asked how much the man would have to have for Stanley and he replied, “Nothing. He just needs a loving home.”
I already loved Stanley and the feeling appeared to be mutual, so we ended up bringing Stanley to our home and it soon became clear to us why the wife didn’t much care for Stanley.
Stanley turned out to be a one-man dog. When I went to the bathroom, he wanted to be with me. When I closed the door, he did guard duty on the other side of the door until I came out. When I worked at the computer, he sat on the floor beside me.
Overall, he liked my wife and I let her feed him in order for them to build a better relationship. She became second in command, but I always came first. If my wife and I were sitting on the couch, or lying in bed, that was okay. Stanley might jump up and sit with us, but if I was sitting alone or lying in the bed alone, Stanley would permit no one, not even my wife, to occupy the space next to me. He never actually bit anyone, but I felt that if a person continued whatever was annoying Stanley, he might very well bite. At seven years of age, we realized that there was little chance of changing this behavior, the very same behavior (it turned out) that caused the couple to give Stanley up.
It had broken the man’s heart to give Stanley to us, and it broke my heart to return Stanley (which was part of our original agreement), but clearly, I had to decide between my wife and Stanley.
How can you say or feel you “own” a dog like Stanley? I believe that, when you accept the responsibility of feeding and housing a dog (or any animal for that matter), you’re not buying a pair of shoes or a new bicycle; you’re opening your doors to a new friend and roommate who will share your home with you. Sure, sometimes the dog may act like a kid, but as a member of the family or pack, as he sees it, he has to find his place in that family and adjust.
If you plan to bring a dog into your home, a good idea would be to consider your home. An apartment is not a great place for a Rottweiler or other large dog. If you have a house, especially near a park, that might just be the right animal for your home.
The one thing so many people forget is that a dog needs exercise. Plenty of exercise. A great deal of bad behavior comes from the lack of exercise. A dog has to work off that energy in some way or another. Can you afford to allow your dog plenty of time to get out and run? That’s just as important as the food he eats or other conditions.
The takeaway here is: “A happy dog makes for a happy home.”