Monday, March 30, 2009

He Doesn't Like Dogs

The big dogs in our house are not supposed to be on the furniture - this would include the beds. Note that this big dog is not only on the bed, but is under the covers.

Oh, look who invited her onto the bed - "Mr. I don't like dogs".

Here is another example of "Mr. I don't like dogs", not liking Gracie.

One more picture of Gracie not being liked by "Mr. I don't like dogs".

Well maybe he does like THIS dog. But certainly no others...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Prairie Dogs of Privilege

Okay, I’ll admit here in public that I don’t really enjoy this. I certainly don’t enjoy this as much as these so-called “prairie dogs”. Why not? Because unlike the furry rascals, I don’t have a place in line at the massage blanket. Why don’t I? Because I’m not a dog. I’m just the guy who allows these furry rascals to live in my house. Hi, I’m your guest blogger today, the husband of the usual author of “Prairie Dogs”.

Every so often, she’ll get the blanket and spread it out on the living room floor. I know what that means. It means that two dachshunds and two pit bulls are getting a massage and I, the loyal, loving husband…am not. She brings them one-by-one and lays them down on the blanket. Then she systematically massages their back, legs, feet, head, neck, and ears. Before she’s finished, they become limp in her lap. It is as if she has somehow extracted their skeletal system. I watch in amazement.

Why am I amazed? Well…when I come home from a long, hard, stressful day at work (earning money to house the furry rascals), I’m tired, stressed, and a massage would be the absolute best way to unwind. What actually happens (and you won’t believe it either), is that she opens the massage shop for them! What have they been doing all day? That’s right…napping in my house. Stressed? Hardly. I work all day so they can nap in my house. When I get home, they are rewarded with a massage. Amazing isn’t it?

She says it “calms” them. Really? Big surprise. I also notice that they get rather “calm” after running in the backyard, or eating a large meal, or…well…anytime after a few minutes of activity. They’re dogs, for crying out loud, they sleep 20 hours a day. Their very lifestyle can be characterized as “calm”. I’m the one that could actually benefit from this kind of attention.

In fact, I would probably be more useful after this kind of attention. With some of my workday stress massaged away, I could probably accomplish a little more around here. I’ll bet I could repair that kennel outside if I were just a little “calmer”. I might even be able to take one or two of the furry rascals and join her and the other yahoos for a walk. Yeah, maybe, but that might require an extended session to be calm enough for something like that.

So that’s why I’m just a tad resentful. That…and I just noticed that Gus is getting a second turn tonight.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

It's In The Eyes

I was chatting with a non-animal person the other day. Somehow the topic of whether animals have true personalities came up for discussion. This person then went off on a rant about parakeets. Something along the lines of the old lady who thinks her parakeet is different from all the other parakeets in the world - my parakeet hates Oprah, but loves the weather channel, hates that brand of bird seed, loves this one, doesn't want to go to bed before watching the 10:00 news, loves cartoons, etc. His point, I believe, was that perhaps parakeets are really all the same, but old ladies project their own preferences and personalities onto their "special/different/unique" bird. Of course what he was talking about is Anthropomorphism, the attribution of uniquely human characteristics to non-human creatures and beings (Wikipedia).  I would add that we also often ascribe motives to animals, in addition to emotions.

We are probably all guilty of anthropomorphism. After all animals can't actually speak to us and tell us what they are feeling. I have been in a situation where someone tells me "my cat is sad," when clearly it is the person speaking who is sad. Or someone else says "that dog is strutting around - it thinks it is hot stuff". Or my dog pees in the house when it is "angry" with me. Or my dog is "sorry" when he does the "wrong" thing, such as getting in the trash or counter surfing. And of course there are the people who dress their small dogs up, carry them around everywhere they go (as if the dog is incapable of walking on the ground), and talk to them like they are human children (which they are NOT!).

If animal emotions and motives are elusive and hard to pin down exactly, what do we have left? We have behavior of course. The behavior in the "sad" cat is that it sleeps more than usual (as if that is even possible for a cat!), the "hot stuff" dog is exibiting behaviors such as standing tall on its toes, tail up above its back, while the "angry" dog's behavior is occasionally peeing in the house, the "sorry" dog averts his gaze, walks slowly, and hangs his head, when you yell at him for doing the "wrong" thing - and I can't even address the issue of the dog-child.

Does that mean animals don't have emotions or motives for doing things. Of couse not! It's just that we humans should take care in ascribing our own emotions or motives to animals. Maybe the "sad" cat is getting older so it sleeps more, the "hot stuff" dog is highly aroused and unsure of it's environment, the "angry" dog just couldn't hold it until you let it out, and the "sorry" dog is making appeasment gestures so you will stop yelling and actually has no idea of right and wrong, it only knows what works and what doesn't work - getting in the trash produces good stuff to eat as does counter surfing (it works).

If behaviors are king, and emotions/motives shaky is that all there is? I don't think so. I believe in dogs there is an incredible capacity for relationship, for friendship, for forming bonds. Dogs have a spark, a spirit, a potential, a soul if you will. It's in the eyes.  

dachshund rescued by Dachshund Rescue of Houston - waiting for a foster home

American Pit Bull Terrier at Justin Animal Shelter - waiting

Friends, Ted and Joey

Jack, Labrador Retriever - fostered by Metroport Humane Society

Eli, a Dorkie (dachshund/yorkie mix) fostered by Metroport Humane Society

Friends, Gus and Gracie