Horizon at Sandy Point

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Dogs we have known

A dog - or two or three - has always been part of our family. The guard dog called Tiger was let loose around our shop in Woodbrook every night, and we were not allowed into the yard when she was roaming. When we moved to the farm, in addition to the mutts - pedigreed Trini pothounds - my father acquired two Dobermans which we kids named Pepsi and Dixi. Yes, they were black and effervescent. There was Patch, the German Shepherd, and my favourite in that era, a fawn brown Trini mix with large doe eyes that we called Wiley - because she was wild (with seven acres of farm who wouldn't be!)

They say that dogs take their personalities from their owners. While that may be partly true - owners must be held to account for dogs that are trained to exhibit certain behaviours - I've always found that dogs are like children, and treated well, given space and affection, become in their relatively short lives - seven to 15 years is the average - members of the family. Their special qualities are unconditional love, loyalty and friendship. They ask for little more than consistency - food, water, regular attention - and never judge you. Bear in mind as well that certain dog traits can be mitigated but are never bred out of the animal.
We got Grace full grown - she was so happy to have room to run, after living in a box all day.

Jet, for instance, a black Labrador mix, was our perfect companion. He was patient with us, knew how to walk or wait without a leash, but could never resist wanting to "play with the ducks." Even after he had to spend a day with two of his victims around his neck, the safest route was to make sure that the fence between him and the ducks was always intact. He loved water and would swim far out in the rough Blanchisseuse waves to retrieve a coconut or branch. But stay out of his way in the water, his powerful paws would certainly take you under. Once, walking along a country road, he made a beeline for what looked like a large puddle. He rolled around like a hog in mud, and came back reeking of cow dung. Lucky for us, there was river nearby to dunk him.
Choir of Oka's puppies
Then there was the ironically named Mutt, a pedigreed Doberman that stood waist high, his head at chest level. Gentle as a nanny, he would take my wrist in his mouth, stand behind me when strangers approached; or put his forepaws on the five-foot wall to peer at the neighbours. New years' fireworks however sent him to the floor, shaking and whimpering, his head between his forepaws. Loving Mutt with jowls like a judge once fell into a well, and must have treaded water all day before we found him. When we finally got him out, he had an altercation with Jet that my hand got between. A dog bite stings like fire. My howling stopped their fight! 
It takes real skill to pick up two sticks, without using hands!
Today, there's Yoda - named for her ears. She was found in a drain, discarded like rubbish, in water that she could barely keep her head out of. She delivered three litters of perfect puppies in the bush - we always had to go into the garden to find them - which she protected fiercely. She's an old lady now, deaf we think, still loving, and teaching us - like Yoda - how little it takes to satisfy her needs, how grateful she is.

Humans - having dominion over all the earth - must learn to live well with all creatures. And taking care of a dog - or two or three - has many lessons for those who pay attention.
A comfortable place to rest after a schoolday

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