Thursday, August 28, 2008

20 Things I've Learned From My Dog Dixon

So in the spirit of recognizing the contribution of animals in general, and in praise of dogs in particular, I thought I'd share with you a list of the 20 most fundamentally important things my dog has been able to teach me. I am, granted, a slow learner. But here are...

20 Things I've Learned From My Dog Dixon

1) It’s only the idiot on the end of the lead who cares how expensive the collar is.

2) Treats are good – but nothing beats a walk in the park with someone you love.

3) If you manage to escape your backyard, the person who loves you will be thrilled when you come back. If their first words are “Bad dog!” go find another family to live with.

4) Communication is important – but at 3am, nobody cares what you have to say.

5) There’s nothing to be embarrassed about regarding physical functions.

6) Electric blankets are a gift from God.

7) If you’re stuck somewhere and you have to go to the toilet, don’t be too shy to tell somebody.

8) All things are better if they squeak. Even people.

9) I want what you have. I don’t know why. I just want it.

10) If someone growls at you, smile and show your tummy.

11) Getting your nose up someone else’s butt is not normally appreciated; no really DOES mean no.

12) Be prepared to do what your family tells you – about 1 in 3. They get such a charge out of it and I mean – really – how hard is it to ‘lay down’? The whole ‘roll over’, ‘fetch’ and ‘beg’ thing can be negotiated.

13) Nirvana starts in our house promptly every night at 7pm when Tim walks through the door.

14) If you look cute, even if you’re naughty, somebody will generally kiss you.

15) There is no benefit in making your bed.

16) If you nip, you’ll get attention. Just not necessarily the attention you want.

17) Exercise is not negotiable.

18) Sometimes, to scratch an itch, you have to get someone else to do it. In this situation, a nice lady with nails is normally best.

19) Life is better if you’re part of a pack.

20) No matter how adorable you are, if you have Mom’s favourite shoe (gloves/wallet/project she’s working on) chewed up and hanging out your mouth, HIDE UNDER THE COFFEE TABLE.

Educationally Yours,

K.E. Stapylton

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Do Animals Talk?

Well, do they?

I remember when my husband and I got our second dog, Dapple. Our first dog, Dixon, had till that point slept on the floor in our bedroom, wandering in and out at will. But Dapple was a barker who suffered from separation anxiety. So we decided to keep Dixon locked up with her for the night for company. Unfortunately, when she came to us she wasn't as toilet trained as we would have liked (see this for the euphemism it is!), so at night we had to keep her bed in the kitchen so she had access to the back yard. In an effort to keep the house warm, we had to shut the doors in between her and us. All this to say - Dixon ended up spending, for the first time, nights locked away from Tim and me.
I remember the first night. Dapple, having company, barked a bit but ultimately curled up on her bed and went to sleep. No such luck with Dixon! He barked...and barked...and barked...till 1.30am, at which point he finally fell asleep, more or less out of exhaustion. At 6am the following morning, Tim and I ran downstairs to see how they'd gotten along. Dapple was still curled up asleep on her bed. But Dixon gave us a look which communicated his complete disgust with this whole idea, picked up his blanket in his teeth and dragged it to *just* the other side of the now-open kitchen door, and sat down stubbornly. And gave us 'The Look'. No dog in the entire history of dogness has ever communicated so clearly to his family; "Listen folks, I don't DO kitchens!"

Dixon is also an extremely affectionate dog, and he loves my office chair which is on wheels. In Dixon's mind, this chair was created specifically so he could wait till I was in the middle of work, then jump up on the side of my chair, push me across the room, then pin me against the wall with his front paws up on my shoulders, and cover my face with licks. The more I laugh the more he licks! The dog has a sense of humor!

Do animals talk?

I remember some months ago my husband Tim and my friend David working in our backyard, trying to pull out the stump of a dead shrub. I was watching proceedings from the comfort of a garden chair and Dixon was standing next to me. Tim and David started to pull, but the stump was buried in deep. They dug some more, then lined up, one behind the other, and pulled and pulled. Standing next to me, Dixon watched proceedings for a minute or so, saw their lack of progress, then trotted over to the end of the line and took the end of the shrub in his mouth behind David. Together, Tim, David and Dixon worked on the shrub till they had it pulled out, Dixon pulling as hard as anybody.

Do animals talk?

When Dixon was a young dog, about 9 months old, I used to take him to the local park for off-lead running. I went there one day and the park was largely empty and Dixon was having a wonderful time. After a short while, we were joined by a woman who had a youngish male pit bull with her. Dixon's favourite game is chasings, and he was very used to taking turns with Dapple, chasing each other in our back yard. Dixon chased the pit bull for a few seconds, then turned around so the pit bull could chase him. I sensed trouble and it wasn't long in coming. In less than a minute a casual chasing game had turned into a pursuit, Dixon running faster and faster as he realized this was in earnest. Time and again he would try to run to me for protection, but every time the pit bull would cut him off, running between Dixon and me to stop Dixon from getting help. Within about 2 minutes the pit bull had caught Dixon and brought him down from behind. The pit bull stood with his legs either side of Dixon, his muzzle buried in Dixon's neck. I will never forget running to Dixon where he lay, completely silent on the ground, but his head turned to one side towards me, his eyes pleading with me for help. I looked deep into those beautiful eyes and he heard me as clearly as I heard him; help was coming. (Help did indeed come, and it did not bode well for the pit bull nor for his idiot owner who took an undisciplined attack dog to an off-lead dog park!)

Do animals talk?

Of course they do. And in Prism I've tried to give them the voices and the words we would hear if we were smart enough to understand their natural languages. Listening to my dogs and hearing what they have to say is one of the great joys of my life. I believe we all need to recognize that we are not the only species with something to say, and I'd encourage us all to talk less and listen more,

Attentively Yours,

K.E. Stapylton