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Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Welcome To A Dog's World"

They're Just Stupid Dogs


Author, Bob McMillan


If you’ve got a dog and actually enjoy the furry little guy’s
company, if you talk about it in your crowd much, it won’t be long before you
hear someone say, “Well, you just love dogs more than people.”

Huh? When did it get to be an either/or thing? There’s something
wrong with being decent to both people and animals?

How often do you actually find yourself in a 10-seat life raft
with six people and ... five dogs? You really don’t have to choose one over the
other. Why do we feel threatened? Life’s richer with both.

But, they’re animals, they’ll tell you. They’re just stupid
dogs. Okay, here’s a test for you. Drop in on Botswana and mix with the locals.
You don’t know their customs. You don’t speak their language. How long before
you make a major faux pas? And maybe get beaten silly for doing something
“stupid.”

Welcome to a dog’s world.

Dogs and other animals don’t speak human, despite what you see in
the movies. They’re a different species. They’ve got their own culture and
customs. Sure, those customs sometimes include urinating on your carpet if you
don’t let them outside. Or scarfing down the walking shoes you were just about
to slip on to take them on that walk they so desperately wanted.
Misunderstandings abound.

In recent years with dog ownership “in” again, there are more than
74 million dogs in the U.S.
There’s room for a lot of misunderstandings.

Which is why it’s up to us, the higher species, to make an effort.
Dogs will keep on being dogs in all their wooly splendor. But they’ve got an
eye cocked our way waiting for us to explain our rules. Dogs are hardwired that
way. It’s what’s made us successful partners for at least 10,000 years. In the
animal world, it’s the dog that gets along best with humans.

We use dogs to herd, to track, find and fetch game, to find bombs,
to detect drugs, to rescue people, to assist the handicapped. Some dogs can
sniff out cancer cells, termites or land mines. So, why isn’t your dog
like Lassie? Why doesn’t it run and fetch Pa when you step in a hole and can’t
get up? Probably because you’ve trained him to sit, but not fully explored his
potential. Many don’t take or have the time.

The growing body of research in the last 20 years indicates that
dogs, and animals in general, are scary smart.

But, dogs don’t have feelings, they’ll tell you. Consider:
Dogs, as it turns out, have brain structures similar to ours. Brain scans show
the same areas lighting up as ours do when they’re sad, elated or fearful. Many
dog owners already know their dogs smile, get melancholy when left alone,
tremble with fear when threatened or worry when you’re late getting home.

The truth is, we miss a lot. And make quick assumptions. We do the
same with people.

Dogs are mirrors for our attitudes. A group looks at a dog and one
sees a mischievious scamp, another sees a furball waiting to shed on the
carpet, another sees a predator itching for an excuse to bite something. We see
what we expect to see.

But we often miss seeing the dog itself. And if you take the time
to see, they’re pretty amazing.

So, okay, dogs are swell, but you have an allergy or simply aren’t
interested in one. Why should you have to put up with dog poop in your yard, or
your neighbor’s poodle digging up your begonias, or be afraid that big black
dog down the street’s going to eat your kids?

You shouldn’t. Responsible dog owners do more than gush over the
virtues of their prize Borzoi. They continually train their furry pal to fit
into the human world and its ways. We need more responsible owners.
Don’t blame the dog because the owner’s a slackard.

What about all this animal rights nonsense? Are dogs going to get
the vote next? Probably not. There’s a reasonable balance. All but four
states now have animal cruelty laws because when it comes to dogs, too many
people are simply unreasonable.

Pennsylvania recently became the latest state to change its laws after a kennel owner, asked by a
state inspector to check for fleas, instead shot his 70 dogs. Most people find
that extreme. If there’s nothing wrong with it, why do we look over our
shoulders when we do these things to animals?

How we treat dogs reflects on us as much as it does dogs and their
nature. I think of this a lot:
Irish road crews digging the controversial M3 motorway across the
edge of the hill of Tara near Dublin
last year uncovered an odd, 4,000-year-old grave. Tara
was of special significance to the Bronze Age Irish. The high kings of Ireland are
buried there.


The grave was that of a huge hound, buried not with a master but
specially set apart. It wasn’t tossed in, it was laid out as if it were running
into the afterlife.

When I saw it in a photo, I knew what it was from its size, its
huge chest and build. I live with one of its descendants today, an Irish
wolfhound. When I watch him run, when we share time together, I understand why
the ancient Irish loved their horses and their hounds.

Those bones today? Hauled away in a sack and stored in a
warehouse.

Bob McMillan is an editor and columnist with the Cookeville
Herald-Citizen newspaper and lives on a mountain with several giant hounds and wary cats.
This column was originally printed in the Herald-Citizen in Cookeville, Tennessee.
Please visit http://www.herald-citizen.com/ for more information on the
newspaper. We thank the Herald-Citizen staff for allowing FFBF
to re-print this piece.


















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