My Blog Motto

"Good judgement comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgement"

~Rita Mae Brown

Monday, November 12, 2012

I Became a "Dog Person" and Learned to Love the Pack

Now autumn eases into middle age, after a minor mid-life crisis flaunting around some balmy weather reminiscent of youthful spring. Nightfall comes early and the evenings are cozy indoors. The sofa is piled with blankets and my four legged roommates are more cuddly than they have been in a while. All during summer they preferred the cool wood floors sprawled out like bear rugs you see in movies.
When the time comes for the evening walk it already feels well past bedtime and it's no small feat to convince myself to put on the coat, boots, gloves and everything else I wrap up in to protect my arthritic joints from the chilly air.
But tonight as we stepped out into the cold and darkness there was something new- snow! Not a full on snowfall, but just a few swirling flakes highlighted by the streetlamps as they swirled and danced like little impish ballerinas. The dogs were straining against their harnesses, lunging forward as if driven by instinct to run. The bigger dog, Misty, is half Siberian Husky and quite at home in a snowfall. I wonder if there is a calling within her to run, to pull a sled as is her duty bound by centuries of breeding, something she can't quite understand and yet can't escape.
Funny though how pack behavior trumps breeding as her sidekick, Bear, mimics her stride. Funny because Bear is about the furthest thing from a Husky one could imagine. He's what my Mom would call a 'mop dog', one of those small mixed breed, shaggy haired, adorably awkward, misfit kind of dogs.
Now that my kids are grown I have become one of those women I used to chuckle about who fills her empty nest with pets. I talk to them, rearrange my schedule around theirs, take them with me nearly everywhere I go and yes, I even dress them up on occasion. They are my family, my buddies, my pack. In the rare occasions I ever visualized a future self through the eyes of youth, I didn't imagine that once my children were grown I would fill the time and space of my home with dogs. I was really more of a 'cat person' and my visions of future self usually involved travel, a place somewhere higher up on the career ladder and limitless personal freedom. Dogs limit one's freedom in a way that cats don't. They need babysitters. They need walks and playtime. They need to be watched so they don't eat things that are disgusting or potentially lethal. They require a certain amount of consistency and commitment which are not characteristics that come easily to me. Maybe that's why they are good for me. They hold me accountable for a certain amount of routine, exercise and responsibility. They remind me that I am needed. And when the daily news and the worlds problems whisper messages of despair and defeat in my ear they remind me of the raw simplicity of  Nature. They remind me that there are beings in the world that are eternally innocent, fiercely devoted and who are driven by voiceless call to something far more powerful and magical than anything I can find to fret about. They are a link to the natural world in an urban lifestyle. They keep me grounded when my mind threatens to carry me away from the here and now. They force me outdoors when I would otherwise surrender to laziness and apathy.
So although I never would have pictured myself with two dogs suddenly I can't picture myself without them, not the first time I've been surprised by a change of heart but one of the more pleasant chapters in the story of finding my way to Me.

As an end note I'd like to add that both of my dogs are rescue dogs. One was found at a shelter, awaiting euthanasia the other was intercepted before she made it to shelter. I take every opportunity I can to encourage potential dog owners to educate themselves about the daily care and training of dogs before deciding to bring one into your home. They do require attention, consistency and daily maintenance ( including picking up poop!) Different breeds have different needs and temperaments and it's best to do a little research to see which will best fit your lifestyle and personality. (I am partial to mutts myself)
If you do decide to bring a dog into your family please, please, please adopt! There are so many animals in shelters or foster homes who need permanent homes. Purebreds are appealing in many ways and there are caring ethical breeders out there but why bring more dogs into the world simply for profit when so many animals are left to die? Contrary to some opinions that there must be something 'wrong' with an animal that caused it to end up in a shelter, it is most often human error or misfortune that landed them there.
I have found Petfinder,, to be a good clearinghouse of information, including on training and care of animals, breed characteristics, health care/concerns and resources for adoption.
Peace and Happy Tails (sorry I couldn't resist!)

© 2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

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