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Monday, August 8, 2011

It’s a Dog's World


         As anyone who has ever owned a dog you know how a dog becomes a member of the family.  No matter how your day went your dog will act as if you are the greatest person in the world when you come home.  There is no joy like the joy a dog shows.  I know cynical non dog owners will relate this joy to a dog thinking you will feed it or take it for walk but this joy is so much more real.  Whatever bonds dogs and humans have formed over the centuries it has developed in a way that is not replicated in any other animal. Dogs have learned emotions.

    Dogs study our every move.  Our dogs know when we get out luggage that means we are going on a trip and they start to follow us around the house to make sure we don’t leave without them.  Open the door to the garage and they try to sneak out before we get out the door.  If we do leave them behind they will sit in the window watching you go down the driveway and have a look on their face like you have just deserted your best friend.

    In our house we have two toy poodles.  We like small dogs for two reasons.  The first reason is they easily curl up in your lap and go to sleep when you sit in your favorite chair.  I know that I have heard a big dog owner say that you can’t hug a small dog but they have not seen one of our dogs being held on my wife’s shoulder like a baby. The second reason has more of an “ick” factor.  That is I don’t mind picking up dog poop if it is small and fits into a small zip lock bag.  Sometimes when they do their business in some leaves it is hard to find what they have left behind.  So if you ever see me with our dogs and I have a stick pushing away leaves you know what I am trying to do. When I see big dog owners carrying a bag of poop that looks like it could have come from a horse I just can’t see myself ever doing that.  I mean they must need a shovel like a circus worker to deal with that much poop. 

The only thing that I do admire in big dogs is they are cool with you when you pass them on a path.  Their size must give them some self-confidence.  Our poodles will feel the need to bark at you like you are a terrorist.  Which from their little perspective a human might look that threatening.  But as any small dog owner knows it is all bluff.  Once they know you are OK they will turn over to have their tummy rubbed or start licking your face.  Just don’t try to park I front of our house while our male dog is on guard at the window.

Which leads me to another characteristic of dogs.  We have a male and a female poodle.  Our male dog is lovable and a little dumb.  Our female dog is high strung and picks up tricks easily. Our male dog has to mark every tree that he goes by (even with an empty bladder) and our female dog will sit and refuse to move if she is ready to go home on a walk.  No human comparisons that I want to make and survive having female family members reading this.


Now I get to the difficult part of being a dog owner. There is no more difficult decision that a dog owner has to make than to euthanize a pet dog.  We try to make it seem more humane by calling it “putting a dog to sleep.” Our poodles are now reaching late middle age and have not yet seen the signs of aging that give us a forewarning of this reality. The closest we came was when one of our poodles injured his back and we had to go through the MRI, visit to a veterinarian neurologist, a veterinarian orthopedist and finally had a veterinarian surgeon operate on the back. Who knew that there is the animal equivalent of every human medical specialist. Of course all of this cost came out of our pocket but we could never had a member of our family put to sleep over the cost.  We would have probably taken out a home equity loan if we had had to.  

So if you would like to bring a dog into you life the Animal Advocates of Howard County and the Animal Control and Adoption Center are good places to begin. If you have a dog and would like to share it with others think about the Pets on Wheels program in the Office on Aging. To train your dogs try the Angel K-9 program.

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