Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Don't Worry About the Dogs
Our sheepdogs turn 13 next month. That’s the equivalent of 91 in human years. It’s hard to believe. We’ve had a bleak and housebound winter, and I worry that Mike and Duffy are just going through one routine day after the next until they’ll suddenly no longer exist. They get up at the same time each morning, go outside to do their business, eat the same breakfast, take the same pills, go for another little walk on the same stretch of sidewalk, take a nap, etc. There doesn’t seem to be much variety or excitement in their lives.
Eating might be an example. Our human diet is much more rich and diverse than the dogs’. E.g., oat bran cereal, cream cheese and lox, lentil soup, multi-grain bread, celery sticks, and, best of all, sixteen different varieties of Lean Cuisines. The dogs only get two meals a day, and it’s always the same: 2 cups of lamb and rice pellets, one small scoop of canned meat mixed in (lamb and rice). It looks unappetizing to me. On the other hand, the dogs don’t seem to feel that way. They approach their daily meals with feverish anticipation. Every afternoon at 4:45 Duffy nuzzles me with his nose to remind me that it’s almost time for their 5:00 supper. The dogs sit and watch avidly as Katja or I get their food ready. Then they gobble it up with tremendous gusto. It’s all eaten up in a matter of minutes. Actually I don’t think I’ve been so excited by a meal in my entire life as the dogs are every single morning and afternoon. Maybe eating isn’t a good example of monotony for the dogs.
We humans, of course, enjoy a lot more entertainment. Katja and I often watch various TV shows that I’ve recorded with the DVR, e.g., Bates Motel, State of Affairs, Broadchurch, American Crimes, John Oliver. There are car chases, shootouts, romantic interludes, cute babies, jet planes, sleuthing, and lots of jokes. The dogs, I’m sad to say, have no interest in TV. When they were puppies, they paid attention when they heard dog barks, but they quickly discovered it was fake. They apparently decided that TV is totally irrelevant to their lives, and they stopped watching altogether. Instead of TV, they are interested in looking out the window. Every time a person approaches their ears perk up, their muscles tense, and they stand to get a better look. If it’s the mailman or if it’s person is accompanied by a dog, especially a pit bull or a chow, the dogs start leaping around and barking at the tops of their voices. they seem to be protecting us from interlopers. In any case, the dogs get more excited looking out the window than I ever do by watching TV.
I’ve also assumed that Katja and I have more rewarding social contacts than the dogs do. We go places with friends, talk about events of the day, even read poems aloud. The dogs aren’t devoid of social contact though. Whenever I take them out on our street they have numerous social encounters. Many passersby stop, comment on how wonderful the dogs are, and ask to pet them. Mike and Duffy, in turn, sniff the people’s legs and nuzzle their trousers. I can’t recall a single time that a stranger on the street has come up to say how terrific I am and proceeded to rub my shoulders. Actually I think the dogs get more attention and affection from strangers than the rest of us do (at least since we were babies).
The dogs do sleep a lot during the day. At first I interpreted this as another sign of their lives being dull. Then it dawned on me that the dogs are wide awake when anything of interest to them is going on. When the exciting things come to an end, they simply lie down and take a nap. The consequence is that their waking lives are nearly always interesting. There’s a lot we could learn from this.
After thinking it over, I guess I’ve been worrying too much about the quality of our dogs’ lives. It may be true that their lives are restricted in human terms. But, on the other hand, they’re not human beings. They probably think our lives are sort of weird too, e.g., always reading the newspaper, doing Sudoku. The dogs’ lives aren’t perfect, but they seem to experience more emotion and excitement than most human beings do. Realizing that I’ve been under-estimating the dogs, it makes me wonder if it’s my own life that’s been monotonous lately. That’s something else to worry about.
Jennifer M (3-16): This is a good entry. :-)