Mom told me today is Father’s Day and that today I was to think real hard on what my Dad means to me. I think I must have looked confused. She changed her mind and said to just think about all the things my Dad does for me, then I’m suppose to write it down. Man, this must be a special day, I have to think and write. Mom tells me to try really hard to do it, to try hard like when Mom and I are walking and the cat across the street makes faces at me. I have to concentrate really hard to keep walking with my Mom.
I remember meeting my Dad when I was little. He had on these cool white socks. I wanted one and tried to steal it by pulling on it, but it just wouldn’t come loose. It made my Mom and Dad smile.
Whenever I do tricks my Dad smiles. He likes it when we play fetch. At night, when it’s quiet and Mom and Dad are watching the flashing lights, I fetch a towel from the bathroom and give it to my Dad. He tells me it was a good trick and gives me treats. Sometimes I have to go way across the house and fetch the towels in that bathroom, because Mom moved the other towels to where I can’t reach them. She just does not understand the fetch game like my Dad does. My Dad is great. He gives me lots and lots of treats, even when Mom tells him he’s making me fat.
Sometimes my Dad gets mad at me. I don’t know why he does this ‘puting thing. He sits and stares at the ‘puter. Sometimes he laughs at what he sees; sometimes he gets mad and mutters at the ‘puter. He tells me he is working and he gets really mad when he is ‘puting and I hit it with my paw or close the lid by bumping it with my head. Then he says he’s sorry for getting mad and tells me I’m a good boy and gives me treats. He tells me I’m a good boy all the time. When he says I keeping lowering the bar on what good means, I get confused. That’s a good thing right? A lower bar means I can jump over it easier, right?
My Dad takes care of me when I hurt. If my ear aches he rubs my belly and puts drops in my ear. I don’t like the drops, but I like belly rubs and being told I am a good boy. Sometimes, when I really hurt, Mom or Dad take me to the scary place they call the Vet. There are lots of scared and hurt cats and dogs there. That makes me scared. They poke me in places I don’t want to talk about. My Dad says they are going to make me better. He tells me I am brave and a good boy, so I let them poke me and do weird things.
So that’s what my Dad means to me. Lots of belly rubs, cuddles, treats, “good boy’s” and knowing he will take good care of me.
We all do it. It is simply too hard to resist talking to our dogs. We know they are listening, by the way they cock their head and by their reaction when we say “treat” or “walk”. Most dogs learn the basic Sit, Down and Stay commands, but just how much of our conversations do our dogs understand?
I read an interesting article in Animal Planet, check it out here, that states the average dog understands 165 words. That amazes me. I cannot think of 165 words that my dogs may actually know, unless like the Inuit having hundreds of words for snow, our dogs have more than 100 words for food.
Of course every dog is different. I am confident that Willa, our Cattle Dog Border Collie cross, understands full sentences. If Willa leaves a toy in the yard, we can say to her “Willa go and get your toy”. She will then trot out into the yard and retrieve it. Moe, our Lab cross, appears to just know the basic commands Sit, Stay, Down, Bed, Treat, Dinner, Walk and the words he hears the most No and Off. I am convinced that when we talk to him the sounds he hears are like those of the teacher in the old Charlie Brown cartoons – Wah Wah Wan Treat, Wan Wan Food. (Remember This?) Talking to our dog Taz usually elicited the “talk to the back of my head” response. He would turn his head away, clearly stating I’m not listening to you; while Tasha would cock her head, appear to listen intensely then would happily ignore whatever you said, unless of course treats were involved.
Dogs like children everywhere understand the language. The question is are they really listening?
I’m not sure why I felt compelled to read the story or why I was drawn to read it to the very end.
I do not want to be judgmental. I really strive to live by the words “live and let live”. I am sure people look at my life and my stories and think I am totally bats. Perhaps in some ways I am. I learned early on to turn a deaf ear to my critics and hold my tongue when I observed behaviors that grated on me like fingernails across a blackboard.
The post I read a few days ago was a subtle tale of tragedy. When I finished reading it my hands hovered over my keyboard waiting for me to form the words I wanted to use to comment. No that’s not true. I did not want to comment I wanted to criticize, to lash out. The angel on my right shoulder pleaded with me not to, and thankfully ruled the day.
The story has stayed with me. I carry it in my mind like a heavy burden. I will not go into details. I do not want to publicly denounce the post, after all the writer was well within her rights to post her feelings and no harm was being done to anyone (person or animal). It was a deeply felt lament on the mistake she had made in getting a dog, her thoughts about abandoning the dog and the conclusion that she would keep it. There was no indication that the dog is being abused or neglected, in fact it appears the dog is well cared for, however it is tolerated rather than loved.
I misled you. I do know why I read the enter post. As I read I kept thinking this is a put on, any line now the truth will come out. The story will have a heart-warming ending. You know how dogs have a way of working their way into your heart with a wag of their tail, a tilt of their head. The writer would show that she was not immune to her dog’s charm. She too would be won over. So I kept reading and reading and this did not happen. I felt it, deep in my soul, as my heart broke a little. Here was a dog that had been adopted from a shelter and was now in a home where it was not loved and not wanted. As dog owners we know how important it is for our dogs to be part of the pack. They freely give affection and they deserve a least a little love and affection back.
We all have regrets. There were countless times when my son was young that I wondered to myself “What have I done?”and thought “I can’t do this.” Yet I did do it. Ask me what it’s like having four dogs and I would say it’s hard and advise “Don’t do it.” These thoughts in no way reflect the love I have for my son and my four dogs. They are simply brief reflections at a difficult time. Ask the same question on a different day and I would wax elegantly on the accomplished young man my son has become and regale you with tales of the four characters in my pack.
My advice to any parent, dog or animal, is stop looking at the glass as half empty. See it as it is – half full. For dog parents the daily walks do not have to be a chore, they can be a quiet time, a time for inner reflection. Forget the vet bills, rejoice with your healthy dog. Fall deeply into the big brown eyes, let the wagging tail lift your spirits. Take comfort in the weight of the head resting in your lap. Laugh at the antics of your four legged friend. Keep happy memories close at hand, ready to take out an examine when life is about to overwhelm you.
10,310. That is the miles I have traveled as we moved across Canada and the USA over the last seven years. I have traversed 21 of the 50 states, some several times, and 4 of Canada’s 11 provinces. Of that number 3,188 miles was with three dogs and the remaining 7,122 was with four dogs.
Anyone who has done it can testify that traveling with dogs is not always an easy task. For some reason they refuse to synchronize their bathroom breaks with yours or with each other, usually whining to signal their need when on 8 to 10 lanes of freeway going through a major urban center or on a long stretch of interstate with no exit in sight. Dogs who are normally succinct in taking care of business suddenly need to examine each blade of grass before making the necessary deposit. We learned not to worry when Taz decided he didn’t need to leave deposits across several states and several days, the inevitable did eventually happen. We didn’t stress out when early in each trip Willa would refuse to eat, perhaps trying to avoid having to making the inevitable deposit in a strange place. Once again time won out and she would start to eat.
We have become experts at finding hotels that would accept more than one dog, those that would accept dogs larger that Moe’s head and a pack of four dogs ranging from 53 to 110 lbs. We found the website BringFido.com very helpful in identifying hotels that would accept us and our road weary traveling companions at the end of a long day. We usually planned out stops a couple of weeks before our departure. We would start with the BringFido site. Once we identified potential hotels, we would google map them to check out the area around the hotel, confirming they had open areas to walk the dogs and preferably a grassy area for our picky Collie. Research is necessary, a hotel that stated it was pet friendly may only take one dog under 10 lbs, have a hefty pet fee or would be surrounded by concrete. Hotels change owners and policies so a visit to their website or a phone call is needed to confirm they would meet our needs. We have found that the Candlewood Suites, Residence Inn and Fairfield Inn hotels have good pet policies and would accommodate our pack. We also found that hotels such as these that have small kitchens are great. They gave us of plenty of room to feed the dogs, a place to wash the food bowls and a fridge to store our opened canned food. There was also enough room for our four fairly large dogs to stretch out and find their own space. A fond memory is of Taz bounding into the hotel rooms and immediately jumping onto the sofa, as if he was calling dibs.
If you are thinking about taking a road trip this summer don’t let having a dog or any number of dogs stop you. Dogs are resilient and accepting of change. There are many hotels that have good pet policies. Most rest stop areas have separate dog areas, some even fenced. We have found truck stops usually have large areas where dogs can be walked, convenient fast food and small stores for any necessary purchases.
Although traveling with four dogs is challenging, it has given us many happy and funny memories of time spent with our dogs. Where ever your travels take you, happy trails and happy tails this summer!