People love their dogs so much and take such good care of them that you often hear them say in regards to reincarnation, “I’d like to come back as one of my own dogs.” I on the other hand wouldn’t want to come back as one of my dogs, or as the dog of any doggy guru I dare say, be it Cesar Milan or Ian Dunbar (and I think I love dogs as much as they do). This is because the problem with being one of my dogs is that I’m always studying them, paying very close attention to every nuance of what they’re doing, and then on top of all this they’re expected to be the standard bearer of a theory and fledgling movement. What a drag. My ideal life for a dog is to be owned by a logger who loads his dog up in the pickup for a day in the forest, or the woman who takes her dog to her shop where she gets to sell the things she loves, and off they go together with the day’s work as the main item on the agenda. So what I’ve found to be the best thing I can do in order to enjoy the companionship of my dogs is to just to go to work together. The dogs can hang out with me and all I have to do is get into the flow of whatever I’ve engaged in, and since I love working in the outdoors, the dogs love being around me. In my case this generally means either mowing the fields or getting in the wood.
Over these next few days Trisha is out of town and so I’m taking care of Hero and she is one intense little puppy. If she perceives something as having one iota of preyful essence then it’s meant for her mouth only and must be brought to ground. She goes from point A to point B at the speed of light and knows how to shift tectonic plates when access is denied. She was bred for work and would be every canine handler’s dream dog, and yet could just as easily be fodder for the euthanasia meat grinder that is the American pet marketplace. So what to do with this little furry ball of caged lightening? Of course, no training, no walk; let’s get some wood. The day before I had dropped a dead ash in the lower field so I loaded up my chainsaw, splitting maul, gas and oil in the tractor and off we went. Hexi is in heat so our logging party comprised of me, Hero and Hessian.
I spent an hour or so sawing up the limbs and trunk, getting the brush out of the way and then splitting the slugs into cordwood, all during which Hero and Hessian had their own private little adventures that radiated from the job site as epicenter of their synchronized orbits, Hero covering twenty paces for every one of Hessian’s (he’s nine years old now). There is a relatively busy road a hundred yards away but I knew that Hero’s drive to make contact is so strong that what is a problem in one context is an asset in a supportive environment. She was at the center of the only universe that mattered to her so there was nothing else out there.
The tree I was working on fell at the edge of a small thicket of white pines and poplar saplings where the woods were beginning to encroach on my field (next summer’s project) and on one of Hero’s sorties I saw her coming out from under the pines with a big chunk of frozen something buried so deep in the back of her mouth I knew the attraction was primal magnetic. I assumed it was a chunk of a deer that a coyote had taken down and eaten most of and now Hero had found its remains. It might have been a section of the skull and there were wads of fur still stuck to it. Hessian too could see the primal importance of her discovery and was soon trailing in her wake and sniffing at her mouth and this allowed me to see just how great Hero’s temperament is. Even when she lied down to concentrate on her meal, and with Hessian crowding her muzzle and milling around to get a good whiff of what was going on, nibbling on the crumbs and flecks in the snow by her paws, Hero never growled or interrupted herself to deal with Hessian. She wanted that carcass with every cell in her body and Hessian could feel it so there was absolutely no tension between them even though they were check to check and jowl to jowl. It was a powerful experience to watch them achieve reconciliation over a potentially charged moment and completely via their own resources. I cringed thinking how so many such incidents in a domestic household distort the cooperative faculty that every dog is born with when two dogs find themselves in a comparable situation before this faculty has fully evolved.
But the dog trainer in me couldn’t resist the teachable moment so I called Hessian, had him lay down by the tractor and then approached Hero and knelt down about twenty feet away. “What a goooood girl, she’s sooooo boootifulll, Heeerroooo, yea, looook at that fluffy, furry wabbittt you’ve got there. Hero got up and came toward me and so I stood up and began to slowly backpedal while I increased the volume of my cooing. Hero proceeded to circle me and so I knelt down again and with her leaning against me, I gave her a good rub-a-dub along her topside and flanks and she all the while continued to hold the carcass calmly in her jaws. Perfect, she was giving me her energy. What a temperament.
An hour later when I was stacking wood in the shed behind the house, Hero found an old marrow bone in the yard and so to build on what had happened earlier I asked her to Hup while I patted my chest. To my delight she did. And why not, when you love what you’re doing, it’s all in a day’s work.