Mankind is not Perfect, Dogdom Is Close—
Happiness is a warm puppy.
Charles M. Schulz
Today, you dog owners can move to the head of the line. To cat owners and other animal lovers…well, I’m allergic to cats. When I enter a room where there’s a cat, the cat will invariably come and sit in my lap. The sniffles and itching start even as I smile stoically through my leaking eyes at the cat’s owner who dotes on the cat. It’s a Rule of the Universe.
Yes, I have owned a cat, a Siamese cat, that was sane until our daughter was born, but when we caught Sake attempting to kill our infant daughter, our neighbors got a Siamese cat free of charge. We were happy. The neighbors were happy. The cat was happy. Win-win-win all around. Responsible animal lovers who don’t hang out with dogs still rank high in my pantheon of admiration, but this piece is about dogs…and their owners.
Here in Sweden, most dogs I see are either purebreds or deliberate blends of not more than two or three breeds. There must be mongrels around, that is, mixed-breed dogs, but my reticular activator picks up the purebreds probably because we own a Shetland Sheepdog, commonly known as a Sheltie. She’s the second Sheltie we have made a part of our family. I must add, sheepishly, that she is afraid of sheep… and chickens and…well, anything other than other dogs her size or smaller. Big black dogs are to be avoided but, oddly, she was madly in love with a giant Leonberger belonging to a neighbor. She is a born cat-chaser, by the way.
Lest I seem to be accepting of anything to do with dogs, I will candidly admit to considerable animosity toward the American Kennel Club (or any kennel club), irresponsible breeders (particularly puppy mills), dog racers and dog owners who are responsible for gravely damaging dogs through their practice of breeding and favoring dogs that exhibit characteristics the humans deem desirable. Perfect examples are German Shepherds suffering from hip dysplasia and King Charles Spaniels with skulls too small to contain their brains making them subject to seizures. The American Kennel Club is properly accused of fostering practices that damage dogs.
These are not the only ones affected. Many if not most purebreds are similarly damaged after years of thoughtless breeding practices by irresponsible humans. Shelties, for example, are noted for carrying a recessive gene that can result in blindness. Knowing this and though we had ours checked when she was a puppy, we decided to have her spayed. More on that later when I address myths.
We have some friends in the United States who get their dogs through a shelter where, like as not, the dogs are mixed breeds who have been abandoned if not abused. What our friends and others like them are doing is getting a loving companion and saving a dog’s life. I assume you are aware that hundreds of thousands of dogs are euthanized—killed—every year for a variety of reasons, not least being that the shelters are unable to keep the many dogs they have. In this time of Tea Party extortion resulting in a government shutdown, the shelters simply don’t have enough money to afford to keep the animals indefinitely. Thinking and compassionate people like our friends fill a vital need while simultaneously getting a wonderful companion in the family.
Myths about Dogs—
Most of us believe the myths about dogs. Some of them are accepted wisdom that has been shown to be flat wrong. For example, it’s an age-old myth that dogs see only in black and white and shades of gray. The fact is that dogs see many of the same colors we do but they fall at the blue end of the spectrum. While the colors they see are said to be less brilliant than those we see, dogs see black, white, shades of gray, muted blues, greens and even faded yellows.
It’s a myth that a warm nose indicates a dog is sick. He/she may simply have a warm nose, but if the dog displays a yellow mucus or is experiencing trouble breathing, get your dog to a vet in a hurry.
It’s a myth that one dog year is the equivalent of seven human years. Longevity depends largely on the size of the dog. Generally, smaller dogs live longer than big dogs.
It’s a myth that a female dog should have puppies before she is spayed in order to be healthy. Some female dogs are lousy mothers. I suspect our little Sheltie would have been one.
It’s a myth that dogs eat grass because they are sick. Some dogs just like grass. It’s salad to them. Some will eat too much grass and get sick.
It’s a myth that a dog will wag his/her tail to show happiness. Your dog may be happy, but a wagging tail can also signify nervousness or anxiety. It might also be a sign of aggressiveness. Get a good book on dogs. Ask your vet or other knowledgeable expert for a recommendation. You will find some suggested good books at the end of this piece.
Not a Myth—
This is important advice and NOT a myth! Remember that dogs are pack animals and you are part of their pack. If you work all day and are gone leaving the dog alone every day, it will make the dog crazy. It’s like solitary confinement for a human. If you just want a dog in your life for selfish reasons, think first about the dog and its needs. Many humans think of a dog as merely a live, warm, friendly ornament without considering the emotional needs of the dog.
Recent research shows that dogs think in much the same way and at a similar level as a young human child. In an October 5, 2013, New York Times article titled “Dogs are People, Too,” Gregory Berns, professor of neuroeconomics at Emory University and his fellow researchers have shown that dogs have many of the same reactions found in humans. It’s worth reading.
Pet Peeves (pun intended)—
Abandoning dogs or any animal, for that matter. When the abandoned dog is wrongly thought to be dangerous, Pit Bulls of course come readily to mind. My daughter, a long-time dog owner who has three abandoned Pit Bulls among the five dogs in the family (and is considered a dog expert), says they are among the sweetest dogs she knows. Her view, and one with which I concur since I know one of them, is it’s the owner who’s the one who determines a dog’s disposition.
Showing dogs. Dog shows encourage harmful breeding and are ego things for their owners. Same for cats.
Racing dogs. Hundreds if not thousands of greyhounds die or are killed to perpetuate this “sport.”
Undisciplined dogs…or children, for that matter. Both dogs and human children need to be taught good manners.
Clipped Poodles. Incidentally, they are considered by experts to be among the smartest dogs. At the top of the Smartest list are the Border Collie and the German Shepherd. Of the Poodle, Rita Rudner says, “I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult.”
At the ”Stupid” end of the list are The King Charles Spaniels. Maybe that has to do with the problem of their small skulls mentioned earlier. A former neighbor of ours allowed her King Charles Spaniel to get on the table and eat the peanuts intended for the guests…but that has to do with lack of discipline, also mentioned earlier.
Bay’s Thought for the Day:
You have a BIG responsibility when you get a dog. Play with it every day. Dogs want and need stimulation and even a challenge the same as humans do.
And last but not least, remember the next time you see a Chihuahua that it is related to the wolf.
The Monks of New Skete. They have written several good books.
Cesar Millan, “The Dog Whisperer.” He has written several good books.
A good book on selecting the right dog for you or your family. A good book will present the physical and mental characteristics of a variety of dogs. And remember that your local shelter has some very good dogs just waiting to be adopted. Do your research BEFORE you get a dog! Be a responsible dog person!