Sunday, August 14, 2016


No, not giving our dog away. Rather sharing some thoughts on dogs.

We have Goldens and have had for quite a few years. The dog fits us to a “T”. Sure she sheds. The pickup truck, dog's truck, is full of swirling hair when we opt to drive with all the windows down. The bride starts waving her arms in survival mode and I know to roll up all the windows and turn on the AC. But it is the dog's truck. Not the family “truckster” or a vehicle we pick friends up at the airport. Hundred and ninety thousand miles and not an oil leak. Burns some oil but has been a 100% vehicle for everyday living and hauling. The dog is free to come and go with me all the time and usually does. We both like getting out of the house and we never worry about the mess. A bi-annual clean up of the truck is in order though. It is our truck!!

Here on the hill the dog has free rein. She rarely—RARELY- is leashed when out and about and never around the property. She knows where the seasonal mud hole is. The mud watermark along her side and the biggest smile on her face, is an annual event. Generally she roams at will, barking at the neighbors dog barking. Noises in the woods find her running to investigate and the small black bear that visits here during the summer season sets her hackles up when she leaves the kitchen and even before I even get the garage door up. She has treed the bear several times. The neighborhood fox is also chased. The dog and cat do rule here. A fisher cat who lives here COULD rule but we avoid it when it visits.

Our girl loves to help bring in winter wood. She comes to me when I am loading the tractor bucket from the outback woodpile. I give her a small thin dog piece of wood and off she goes with a “bone in her teeth” (A wonderful expression from the sailing days of old where ships under a full press of canvas would push the seas aside with a great white bow wave on either side. If they were coming straight at you, they would look a bit like an exuberant, happy dog with a “bone in their teeth.”) to the front yard where she stacks her share. After awhile, she lays in the warm grass, eyes watching my work, head rested on her wood pile.

I have from time to time found myself looking at her and her freedom to live her life with us, free and unencumbered. No leash necessary. And in this day and age where everyone is seemingly on edge about something, a dog walking in the field, down a trail or headed out to the swimming hole un-leashed, very well can bring a “do-gooder” to mess with our world. That is rare because all I have to do is carry a green tennis ball in my hand and nothing else exists in our dog's world. Nothing! There is not a leashed dog on this planet that minds more than our dog on “tennis ball.”

I watch others watch us when we are out in public. Their dogs are pulling and straining to be free from the leash. The owners are in some kind of constant struggle to protect their dog and world from freely interacting. I hear them talk to their dog as we pass or are near by. The life struggle to be controlled vs being free. The owner twice wrapped in dog leash. 

If another dog comes close or wants to investigate, I stop and hold the tennis ball at my side. I tell our girl to sit, stay close and so forth. She does. Only when a leashed dog gets close enough to touch or get in our space does she start to get annoyed. And under no circumstance should the leashed dog show any interest in the tennis ball. We just do not go there and I tell the owner of the leashed dog to pull their dog off as it will not go good for either of us. Our dog owns the tennis ball. That is where the line in the sand is drawn on the dog's terms. Maybe dogs too will stand and protect for the same things they live for.

In the water, our girl will swim and fetch the ball till the cows come home. Time after time, till heavy breathing interferes with carrying the ball. And yes, the leashed dog finds its way to our little swim area. Not because it is a bad dog, but because it is a dog. Tied up, wanting to be free, swim and play ball. So I stand to protect, minimize contact and if I have to, pull the ball from the water, hold it next to my side. Our girl will stand there, glued in place.

When we are finished, she follows us and the ball to the pick up truck to get dried with a big bath towel. I think she loves all of that as much as playing ball and swimming. As a treat, we all stop for a small vanilla ice cream cone to cap off the outing. Our girl is in the lap of luxury as she licks the ice cream till it is gone and the final ice cream cone bite is down.

The only seasonal problem our girl has is rain. Snow is a toy and so fun to run and roll in. Her laying in the fresh snow confuses me. But she loves it. In the summer laying flat out in the warm sun on the driveway. Quite often our cat joins in the relaxation, next to the dog, belly up. But the rain turns her back to the house always.

From time to time, like this morning, she finds and leads me to the back door. If you have animals, you know they have us trained as well. I open the kitchen door for her and she immediately backs up a full step and looks at me. False alarm? I say ok and back to chores. Again she finds me, leads me to the kitchen door to go outside. I open the door, she backs up and looks at me. This is dog speak that means “we” need to go outside. “I am not taking on what is out there w/o you, dad.” Sure enough, I walk out the door and off she leaps, hackles up and barking at the outside. She stops, looks at me to see if I have her back. We continue and she runs down the driveway barking and looking. After awhile of checking things out at the lower driveway, she feels better and we come back in. It was a team effort. I do not take lightly her need to go out and inspect. She knows things I do not know. 

Some of the very best moments in my life come from what I call "surveying our kingdom." On a warm day afternoon, I so enjoy to sit in a comfortable chair under the shadow of our roof. A perfect moment will include a cold beer topped off with the dog laying at my feet. Her eyes and ears perk as I talk to her. The richest man in the world can not buy moments like this. A light breeze filters through the trees, the Blue Jays hit the bird feeder and dart back into the woods. I see chores done and those still need doing. And so the minutes go by into an hour of doing nothing, just me, my dog and our kingdom.

I tell her, that she is a free dog living in America. How lucky she is, compared to many of her breed, to know life as she knows it. She looks at me but I do not know if she fully understands her freedom. All of this has been natural for her since we brought her home in the middle of the winter, all snugged in a blanket. But I know it and that just may be enough for both our understandings.

Her life will come and go in this world, a free dog in America. 


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