Ready and Waiting …

This piece, authored by Karen Filippi of Somerset Cairns, Tunkhannock, PA, speaks to each of us who have watched the years tick off with a beloved companion (reprinted with permission, as appearing  in the November 2008 AKC Gazette).

The AKC Gazette … the Official Journal of the Sport of Purebred Dogs Since 1889,  is available as a paper subscription or through a free online digital edition.  The Gazette is a treasure trove of information on the individual breeds which make up each “group” of dogs as well as being of interest in general to those sharing their heart and home with the canine species.

Ready and Waiting …

Summer, this year, seemed to come and go with my barely marking the days or weeks.  Instead, it’s the months that have become the season’s mile-marker, and the year the milestone of time’s passage.  This is, I think, also the measure of my progress through the seasons of my own life.  And so, with summer gone and year’s end approaching, I find myself facing the prospect of other passings, other endings.  Somehow, without my really noticing, two of my Cairns have grown quite old.

True to their reputation, Cairn Terriers are hardy, active dogs with relative few genetic health issues.  Should they fall ill or be injured, they will often suffer in silence.  This is another facet of the native courage that sends them headlong and heart-first into dark, narrow holes in the ground, seeking fierce quarry armed with tooth and claw.

The lifespan of a Cairn Terrier can, and more often does, exceed 15, 16, 17 years  and more.  Measured against human years, it is not very long.  Yet it is long enough to encompass a childhood, a marriage, to span one or more of the significant passages that mark our own lives.

Time passes, and, as it is the nature of things, the irresistable puppy become the irrepressible adolescent.  The adolescent becomes the mature, comfortable companion and faithful friend who, suddenly, a senior, slows but remains steadfast.  And then …

How to consider, cope with, the prospect of such a loss?

It is a testament to the lives of these incredible creatures that their passing has such a profound effect that we are compelled to search for ways to express our grief and afford it the dignity it is due.  While convention may still deny dogs a soul, for many the idea of the “Rainbow Bridge” speaks to our need to have them wait for us, somewhere, safe from harm.  In so many canine lives, there are too few such places; it seems fitting there should be such a place afterward.  Who can know?

What we can know, beyond doubt and, even absent faith, it the value of what they give to us.  We are, quite literally, their individual gods and they love us without condition or judgment.  They remind us to accept the world as it comes each day, to meet each moment with anticipation and awe.  To hear the poetry in our shared silences and the harmony in our different songs.  To fling our heart ahead in the sheer joy of living, and to run, full-out and free, to catch it up … again, and again.

When, all too soon, it is time for them to go, our memories of them will hold all this and keep it safe, ready and waiting, against the time when it will be our turn to follow.  … For Tinker and Indi, in their twilight.

Treat Me Like a Dog …

“Furbaby” … the word sends chills up my spine.  While we love our four-legged companions dearly, we must never lose sight of the fact our canine companions are a species unto themselves.  Many of the surrenders we get into rescue are there because the owners lovingly, yet mistakenly, anthropomorphize (attribute human form or personality to things not human) these cute little dogs, not realizing that the Apso is one of the most dominant dogs in a small package.  Give them an inch and they will take a mile … you can bet on it!

Jan Warren, active in Dalmatians since 1988, was a guest columnist in the December AKC Gazette.  She is an AKC judge and has served as an officer, committee chair, and show chair for several kennel clubs, including the Dalmatian Club of America.  She has graciously given permission for reprint of her column submission …

Treat Me Like a Dog

At a recent show, I was dumbstruck by the sight of a girl walking a Chihuahua fully attired in a flowered sundress with matching bonnet.  While many folks saw the embodiment of cute, I was appalled.  In my opinion, this dog didn’t look cute — just plain foolish.

Unfortunately, this notion of turning our dogs into furry people appears to be growing out of control.  We see them sporting the latest fashions, pushed in strollers, and slung in totes.  Day care, therapists, and even pet psychics are available.  Dogs are not people!  Yes, we do have some traits in common.  However, a trait or two does not a human make, and when we expect our dogs to act accordingly, we set them up for failure.

Dogs are thinking, emotional beings but not in the same ways we are.  Their lives are governed by instincts with which we cannot reason.  While we strive to provide them with the best of nutrition, they are still predators born to the chase.  We should not be surprised when they go for a cat, squirrel, or even another little dog that crosses their path.  We should not be offended when our intact male dogs makes eye contact and bristles at another boy.  It doesn’t necessarily mean they have a poor temperament or are aggressive.  They are males with the male need to defend their territory against a possible sexual interloper.  We can train and socialize our dogs to the best of our abilities but, in the long run, genes will win out.

Yes, I believe in training and socialization.  We cannot allow our dogs to mark their territories in our homes, bark incessantly, or run loose, terrorizing the neighborhood.  However, training should be tempered with the understanding that in certain circumstances, nature will take precedence.  Anyone who has had an intact male dog living with a female in season knows no amount of reasoning will calm his need to breed.  You either live with the howling, slobbering, barking and panting — or temporarily relocate one of the parties.  Telling him “next time” or “not this girl” will not appease him.

Dogs are unique in the animal world.  No other creature has ever been designated “man’s best friend.”  There’s something special in the makeup of a dog that has earned him this one-of-a-kind title.  It is his joie de vivre, his unconditional love, his unswerving loyalty?  Yes, yes, and yes.  Dogs are all these things and more, because their joy, love and loyalty are not contaminated by human traits of bitterness, vindictiveness and betrayal.  By attempting to remake them in our image, we are demeaning the very character of the dog.

Think of it this way:  How exciting and fascinating is it to be able to develop such an intimate relationship with an entirely different species?  Let’s celebrate those differences and try to look for the good, savor the moment, be content with what we have, and who we are.  In this way, maybe we can both, as species, become a bit better than we would be without each other.     ~~ J.W.