Monday, January 03, 2005

Pack Mentality

Thanks for the Memory Inspiration to this post at the Llama Butchers.

Robert the Llama Butcher has an interesting solution to the problem of unwanted behavior by his daughters, and I think it's an excellent one. OK, so I admit it, I'm a dog person and therefore biased. I've had four dogs in my life.

The first was Brutus, a Norwegian Elkhound. My family owned it before I was old enough to remember, but I'm told that one of the reasons we got rid of Brutus is because he was too friendly and powerful for me, and kept bowling my toddlerness over.

The second was Midget, a cockapoo, which we owned while living in Idaho. My sister and I neglected her, and my parents didn't have tome to care for her properly, so we put her up for adoption. She was scooped up immediately.

The third was Dandy, a purebred Cocker Spaniel, purchased my freshman year in high school. We didn't neglect him as badly, although we were forced to kennel him outside (because we could never train him to behave), where he got loose and was shot by a neighbor while I was away in college.

So my and my family's track record with the first three dogs was spotty at best. I don't think I'd be enthusiastic to recommend someone like that as a pet owner. My only defense is that my role in their care was limited, and I was a far less mature person as a child. After Dandy's death, I couldn't bear the thought of another dog for years, not because I didn't like them anymore (I love dogs), but because I didn't feel emotionally capable of risking losing another dog, or behaviorally capable of properly caring for one.

That changed after I met The Feared Redhead. She grew up with one dog her whole life, a family mutt named Brandy that died in its teens when TFR was in High School. From the beginning of the marriage she began telling me she wanted a dog, and didn't let up. I agreed, in theory, but there always seemed to be a good reason not to. Finally, after our Quantum Leap of Faith in moving back to Oregon, and the struggle to find jobs, when we finally moved in to an apartment, we set out from the beginning to find one that allowed dogs. After a few months living there, and when our finances allowed, The Feared Redhead began combing the paper and online ads for the perfect dog. Ironically, when she found it, I was the one who insisted we discuss the matter in depth before deciding, yet I was also the one to pull out the checkbook after one look. And ever since, the dog who is of a breed selected bt TFR, who was found by TFR, makes it clear she considers herself my dog. To borrow from Hank Hill, "Go with it, Bobby. We got the long end of the stick on this one." So now we have had Miko, a Lhasa Apso, for almost 3 years. And I'm not just a better master than I ever was with the other dogs, I'm a pushover. I must admit to spoiling this dog rotten -- I think I'm making atonement for all those years of breaking the other dogs' hearts.

One other thing. I know people who will tell you their dog thinks it's a human. Others will say their dog considers them fellow dogs. I disagree with both. My dog knows it's a dog. She also knows I'm a human. But a long time ago dogs figured out that this interspecies pack worked well, and they're perfectly fine with the arrangement. I just have to keep reminding her who's the alpha.

The Feared Redhead, of course.

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