Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Why I love Dogs

Dogs listen, but the don't talk back. Dogs pay close attention and learn quickly to attune themselves to you. Any kindness shown a dog will be returned a thousand fold. Dogs take pleasure in the simplest things and express their joy in every gesture. Dogs love unconditionally. I've never had a dog whose love I lost or forgot. My days and nights with dogs have been peaceful and a comfort, fun and a joy. Dogs may not talk but they sure can express themselves.

I live with three dogs. Roscoe is Ms M's dog, but I'm the person he spends most days with. I'm his babysitter, nanna, the bossy old woman who lets him in at 7 AM when Ms. M goes to work. He takes his place across the foot of the bed (he is careful not to bother my feet) and we all go back to sleep. I sleep best when Roscoe is at the foot of the bed. He's a weighty, muscular presence. He snores gently.

When Ms M first got Roscoe he was a puppy. In the first two years of his life she had to move five times. Always because of Roscoe. He chewed up and spat out every single thing she owned including her mattress and DVD remote control. He never stopped barking when left alone, greatly annoying anyone within a block of his loud and pained voice. He was an escape artist. When he started chewing on her round oak table she came to see me again. I said yes again, and she and Roscoe moved in. The only reason it worked was that Roscoe was not alone anymore. Roscoe had finally become a member of a pack. And then there's the big fenced yard. Roscoe had never had a big fenced yard. Here with us, Roscoe had Geeky, wise old dog, attuned to my habits, the limits of my temper, the precise amount of foolishness I would tolerate. Geeky knew the ropes. I've always known that cats and dogs are amazingly psychic little mind readers, attune to subtle shifts and waverings. Geeky was a very good judge of character and I trusted his hunches about strangers. So I turned Roscoe over to Geeky to train in the world of this little universe, this roomy forest. They patrolled the fences. They shit in the vinca, not on the lawn and far from either house or the gazebo. They didn't bark at women pushing strollers, but they did bark at the mailman, the UPS truck, the dog walker, walking a dog luckier than they. I can tell that bark. It is like no other. Envy is in it's tone.

When Geeky died, Roscoe was five years old. He took over all Geeky's old odd jobs. And every other animal who's been introduced to the friends and family of pets here since Geeky's death has been protected and warned, gently bullied into good sense, taught the ropes by the newly promoted leader of the pack.

Roscoe's bigger than Geeky was and his power, when giving a warning to a strange man, is hard to ignore. So, even though I know Roscoe will not attack a man who listens to me (and follows my instructions to ignore Roscoe, look at me, not Roscoe, don't reach out your hand or try to pet him) it isn't always possible for a man to know that I really mean what I'm saying and know what I'm talking about, and so they look back at the barking overlarge male yellow lab giving the strange man the skunk eye while barking now and then as we cross the backyard to the little house. And as long as the man doesn't recognize that I am the real leader of the pack, Roscoe will always give him shit. But if a man is willing to follow my instructions, Roscoe settles down pretty quickly. I feel safe with Roscoe and he feels safe with me.

Cyrus the Elder joined our pack almost two years ago. We're giving him the best hospice care love can buy. He's now exceeding lifespan. And the past seems to be leaving him. He grows more glossy and confident by the day. His is a sweet old soul. And all the dogs respect him. And anyone who comes to my door unexpected by me is alerted by first the sound of his loud authoritative bark and then the sight of him rising up and leaning forward. He weighs roughly 170 pounds. It is my voice he responds to; he takes his cues from me. He has the hip dysplasia and arthritis an old Rottie is prone to, but his presence as he rises is impressive. I watch the intensity of his discomfort and adjust his pain medication. Half the time I forget to lock the door at night. If the "Beware of Dogs" sign and the locked gate hasn't stopped an intruder Cyrus will. And if anyone's ever cased this joint they've seen Roscoe on the job.

I feel secure with dogs. I feel loved and appreciated by the dogs I live with. There gentle presence is a comfort to me even on the very worst of days.

Now we have little Marley who is the comedian in this group. She is going through the adolescent phase of checking the boundaries of ranking in this pack. This is her first experience of a pack, taken from her family young and kept for almost a year in a kennel, taught nothing, kept for future breeding. Now she has been spayed, and now she is learning what all our expectations are. First off we won't be dominated by a charming little clown. We will play, we will indulge up to a point. We all have our own set of expectations. But Marley's smart. She's learning English and body language very fast.


Doc said...

You are one lucky lady, and those hounds will always keep you safer than a gun under the pillow.


Thorne said...

Oh, Peggy. I come here to see you and I read every post. I offer tribute and honor to your pain and frustration and rage in the only way I can- by reading it and sharing what bitter morsels I may. I often leave no comment (there are times that no words suffice) and trust the fickle Universe to carry my scent to you on an almost imagined breeze. I think at odd moments throughout the day, "There! She knows I came" as I catch your scent on the desert wind. So I come today and read, and share your love of these wonderful pack members of yours, and I smile, and my heart smiles, and I comment.

Utah Savage said...

Thanks Doc for confirming what the police officer said who investigated a robbery at the little house when my companion was a cat. I wrote that short story "Still Life" as I waited for the crime scene unit to get here and dust for prints. It was twenty years ago. Size 11 shoe or so the officer estimated. Good thing my dusting was so lousy. He stood on a chair I never sat in. He was very discerning in what he took. Gold only. I had no cash except the poker jar. That he emptied disdainfully. But he perved on my good undies and the nude photos I'd taken of a model and the nude photographs of me. It was unnerving. He spent quite a while in my place. And he left my passport and round tarot cards in the middle of my bed. The cop said, get a dog. Change the lock, put bars on the windows, lock the gates, keep outside lights on at night. All sensible advise, but I got two dogs and already had the meanest cat on earth.

Utah Savage said...

Thorne, I love that photo of you. I rather see you across the table from me at least once a day. You could run errands with me tomorrow and we'll find Z the perfect summer slipper. We'll stop at the Iranian market in her neighborhood and buy fresh warm pita, halva, yogurt, and other tempting things for her. We'd have a better visit if you were with me. She's stated it very clearly. Unless those around her can be emotionally supportive, she won't want to see them. I get that. But I know sometimes a look flashes through my eyes, the pupils contract, a knot of concern or worry crosses my forehead and she reads me all too well.

gfid said...

your pack. dogs have a lot to teach us about love.

just catching up.... walking down a bit of your rocky road.

my daughter is a fashionista. she says women must always wear fabulous shoes. and the reason for it is this. when the load is heavy and our heads are bent under it all, we open our downcast eyes to see our beautiful shoes, and we can keep going.


Utah Savage said...

Gfld, I agreed with you daughter and had the shoe wardrobe to prove it-hundreds of pairs. Then I broke my ankle and foot while working in my garden. Now I wear "nice" flipflops all summer. I got a lovely pedicure this spring to make the view a bit nicer and then had a run-in with a screen door and lost my second toenail. I can testify that tearing a nail out is torture. Getting old is not for sissies.

But true to form, after a marathon of crying in therapy today I stopped at my favorite thrift store (which is conveniently located close to home and right on the way) and bought two well fitting pairs of pants from nice stores in good fabrics that fit well and one off black tank top that fits perfectly. Tonight when I walked Marley, I wore my favorite earrings. You're daughter is right that it makes things easier if when passing a window our reflection doesn't horrify us.

Fran said...

Sooooo-- the place has gone to the dogs....

You are a dawg lovah!

Thorne said...

I'll make my secret recipe tabouleh with marinated artichoke hearts in your kitchen while you feel and grieve and feed treats to the pack. Then we'll shop and bring Z sweet melons- watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew; perhaps crenshaw in bite sized chunks and berries upon a bed of creamy yoghurt drizzled with lavender honey. We'll also stop at the dollar store and find trashy plastic tiaras and ridiculous sunglasses with (of course) rose colored lenses that we can wear, all three.
Peace, my friend.

Gail said...

Hi Utah-

I love all your dogs, and who they each are to you and to each other and how perfect they are. I love the respite they provide from a seemingly desperate time for you.

I miss Harley SO much - he was my oasis.

Love to you and all your dog family.


Vigilante said...

I sure like (luv) Dobies, but I wish I could break Ballou of eating my TV remotes. (I've replaced three of them at $20 a snap-crackle-pop!)

La Belette Rouge said...

I love for dogs all the reason you say and I have a few more. Lily's joie de vire, extreme extroversion and absolute"yes" to life is contagious. I find myself more open to being friendly, chatty and extroverted when I am with her. Seeing her happy makes me happier than I imagined an animal could make me. Watching her the other day play with Roofy and seeing her bliss out made me extremely happy.

Unlike you I am dominated by a charming little clown and I am indulging beyond all reason. She is my first dog and so I am making a lot of the mistakes of a first time puppy-parent.

Lovely post, dear Utah.
p.s. You know that it was you who taught me to teach Lily to stay. Now, I need her to learn "come" with as much enthusiasm and reliability. Tips?

sunshine said...

I loved this post. It was so great to hear a bit about all the pups!
We've been hitting the pound every week looking for our dog.
There's a cute chihuahua puppy there right now!!!! Since he was found wandering.. they aren't sure if he's good with kids. We've been going up everyday to visit him. So far he seems okay with the kids. They said that they aren't sure if they will let us adopt him or not.... :( They obviously don't want him coming back if he's not good with children. I've told them that he wouldn't be coming back. No matter what. We'll see I guess...

Dusty said...

What a wonderful post Peg. I found myself agreeing with you on everything. My little Sasha was abused and is still afraid of males, except my husband. She is so protective of us, and she hates when our voices get loud and we argue. She runs back and forth loving on both of us, trying to get us to stop. She is amazing and I thank gawd daily for allowing her to live with us.

Dogs are the best company in the world. I prefer them to most humans. ;)

Dean Wormer said...

That is so beautiful, Utah.

I know science says that when a dog licks you they're just getting some salt off your skin but it seems to me they're always doing so when they're obviously happy. I still can't help but feel it's done a bit out of rudimentary dog love.

(Maybe they're happy about the salt.)

I like how they're all tough with the mail man but hide behind you when they're really scared of fireworks or thunder.

dogs are great.

Utah Savage said...

It's lovely to be among so many dog lovers. I love cats to but for very different reasons. My old cat died about a year ago and I do miss her. She was the boss of three generations of dogs in my life. She lived for over twenty years and never lost her wicked edge. She would slap a dog just for looking at her or walking past her. She was the all time queen of cats. All my friends called her Mean Kitty. It kind of stuck and she sure lived up to it.

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

I have loved dogs all of my life. when I was a young girl, I watched my evil stepfather (ha...but he really was) beat and kick and throw our new puppy ... that is how he thought to train an animal. When I tried to intervene, he would be distracted...but set his sights on me. There came a kindred bond for me and that pup.

As a mom, I took to rescuing dogs. The risk with this (I soon learned) was that they don't last long. I had a runner who ended up hit by a car, a couple were abandoned due to cancer and I watched them die ... another was an old junkyard dog who died years before his time because of the stress of his abuse ... but with them all I felt they at least had happy endings because they found us (my little family).

When my kids were grown and work became way more demanding, I opted for non-rescue small dogs. They've made the journey with me and provide companionship for me and each other. I say that I won't get more when these are gone ... that they tie me down and make my new freedom less free.

But I'm not sure I believe what I keep telling myself!

Sherry said...

i often say that i have never been hurt by any animal but i have, by human beings, many times.

darkblack said...

'Dogs listen, but they don't talk back'

Is that a fact, now. My canine acquaintances will be most surprised.


Utah Savage said...

Darkblack, you need to take those canine acquaintances on Letterman show for the Stupid Pet Tricks segment. You and the talking canines will be a big hit.

darkblack said...

I fear a revisiting of the Michigan J. Frog scenario will be writ large upon the tender psyches of insomniac America should that come to pass, dear Utah.


Suzan said...

I feel a little bit like darkblack does in that my pups talked to me all the time.

Mainly to tell me how happy they were and could they please have some more?

Love you and "Thanks!" for the linky love.


Randal Graves said...

I still prefer cats (less noise) but dogs certainly have more of a utility about them.

MadMike said...

Utah we must be following the same gossamer thread these days. I just devoted all of yesterday to dogs over at my place. Take a moment and listen to the "growing old with dogs" sentiment. Guaranteed to make you cry with love.

I apologize for the shameless self promotion but it is curious indeed how often I notice that we think alike in so many ways. This was a wonderful post.

thelass said...

Awww...pups! I like what Doc said - I once had a Chicago cop tell me that a "Beware of the Dog" sign, whether there actually is a dog or not, is probably the best crime deterrent one can have.

I do not currently have a dog, but we have two very cute dogs living next door, so I get my dog fix that way. And by looking at the pics of your happy pups. Thank you.

Mauigirl said...

What a great story about all your dogs. They are wonderful companions, aren't they? I can't imagine life without a dog.