Friday, April 09, 2010

uses for a dog

I come from a 'non-dog family'. It's not that anyone in my family dislikes dogs; it's more that they don't....know dogs. Dogs are seen as more work. Work to pay for their care. Work to clean up after. Work to pay attention to.
Growing up, I wanted a dog so unbearably I would have shovelled literal mountains of their 'lawn chocolates', gone into child labour at a toxic plastics factory to pay for their kibble or stolen someone's beloved canine from their fenced yard and claimed that it followed me home willingly just to spend a few hours pretending this dog was 'mine'.

When visiting my father's parents, who were dog-people, I'd walk their black, toy-poodle, Cindy, with my tiny chest puffed with smug pride. I'd rejoice when a passerby would stop to ask questions about this tiny pup. Pretending Cindy was mine made me feel loved. I could imagine, almost taste, what it would feel to be so very loved by an animal.

I gloried in tales about all things canine. I studied dog-care books, poured over novels with pet puppies hidden in their pages and put myself to sleep fantasizing about having one of my own one day.

When I became an adult, one of my first actions was to find a dog for me. I wanted one who needed me as much as I needed him. I found Eli. Not once did I ever regret having him in my life....not once. When someone would suggest that my life may be easier if I didn't have a hyper, energetic, furry dependent to care for as well as myself, I would teeter between annoyance at the misunderstanding that this dog was perceived as 'not my family' and smug humour knowing that they did not understand the love that this dog fulfilled in my heart.
Years later after Liv had been born, Freckles arrived on our doorstep. Our attempts to find his true and original owners failed. We offered to foster him for the SPCA until his 'people' showed up....They never arrived. During this time, that silly blond worked his way into our home and our hearts. He was forever at our heels...or stopping in just the spot you intended to walk. He filled a hole we didn't even know was waiting for him....even if he chewed that hole while we were out.

Now, for the very first time in my adult life, I am without a canine companion. In the last few days since Freckles passing, I have noticed all the things that a dog is 'good for'. I've realized that although he occasionally often drove me nuts, Freckles was always on my mind. Dictating the time we were needed at home to let him out. Determing how many plastic bags lined my pockets to pick up his 'deposits'. Causing me to fall back to sleep reassured when I've heard a strange noise in the night.
Tonight as I picked up the wayward dinner dandruff off the floor for the first time in 17 years, I mentally made a resume of sorts for a household dog:

Career Objectives

To obtain 'employment' in a warm, safe, active and well-fed pack


Security - Not only can I alert you to any out-of-the-ordinary occurrances, I can protect you should the need arise. Just as you protect me from the elements and from starvation, I will protect you from any harm that I am capable of fending off.

In my presence, you will feel more comfortable and secure. You will know that in a room of judges, I will find you innocent no matter what you have done.

Sleep-Aid - My soft snoring throughout the night will assure you that all is well. When you rouse from your sleep to get a glass of water or check the locks, I will accompany you. You will know that if I am asleep, all is well.

Maid - Although some of us do have moments in our lives where we display our joy or discomfort with acts of destruction, most of us earn a portion of our keep by joining the clean-up crew. If a portion of your meal, be it a plateful or a measly crumb, drops to the floor, I will clean it up without any insistence from you. In my presence, you will never have to tidy up the baby's attempts at a career in food fighting. You do enough for us, I'll take care of it.
Heater - Whether the power goes out or you get stuck in a snowbank, I'll be there with my warm, wiggly body to keep you comfortable. I'll reassure you with my warm kisses that it'll be alright, because we are together. Nothing can hurt us, or freeze us, with me at your side.

Clown - I have a fabulous sense of humour. You may not be laughing as you turn to see me with my four paws splaying against the slippery wood on the dock with the last reachable line clenched between my teeth as the boat floats three metres from the pier....But you will later.

Counsellor - Over our time spent as a pack, you will unfortunately have to deal with some form of heart ache. I take it as my personal quest to be your confidante, counsellor and shoulder. I will tell no one of your humiliations, failures or heartbreaks. In fact, I will view each one of these episodes as triumphs. In my eyes, you can do no wrong....ever.

Expected Wages

In payment for my devotion, loyalty and love, I ask for only a few small things in return. Food, a bed, companionship and love. I am willing to share these with you - I am the sharing type.

The work that some complain of in the care of a dog is really in their own heads and of their own preference...I couldn't care less if you clean up my fur. It actually makes the floor softer. I don't mind if there is poop in the backyard - It IS outdoors afterall! I know that you will find that you may want to take care of these issues....I'll keep you company, I promise. It's the whole lack-of-opposable-thumb-thing that is hindering my abilities. Don't hold my disability against me, please.....

**This post contains photos of all the dogs in our lives....Although Eli and Freckles are gone to be with their 'daddy', the rest of our furry friends are alive and well to play with when we can. Thank you Cedar, Rufus, Diesel and Gangster for your licks and loving! We love you right back....


Anonymous said...

I am with you on several of these. I haven't had a dog since I was a teenager, but they really are 'good' for a lot. My husband is out of town right now, and while my cat tends to just freak me out, I think having a dog would reassure me. And every time I start feeding a kid solids, I wish for one. I'm so tired of scraping goo off the floor.

claire said...

That made me cry, in a good way though. We recently had to put our dog to sleep, since she was very very sick and i still forget she's not there when i get home.

what a spot on post about our companions though.

Jen said...

I came from a non-dog family, but unlike you, Jackie, I didn't move beyond the "a dog is a lot of work" perspective. Thank you for broadening my understanding.

Anonymous said...

that is so sweet.
i've never had a dog but after reading this and knowing of your family's love for your dogs i think you've convinced me.

i hope that you find a new dog to love soon

Anonymous said...

If you are feeling strange not having a dog around and but you can't commit to having one right now, you could talk to the SPCA about fostering. The Nanaimo SPCA is overrun with dogs and could use the help! Just a thought....

leigh in the sav said...

this is one of the most lovely posts and remembrances of a dog i have ever read. your love for him is obvious, and there is no doubt he felt it from each of you.

i pray that you, liv and briar find the newest version of "normal" adaptable, but if you don't then go get a fluffy, four-legged baby to help soothe your pain.

there is never a "good" time (you can afford it, have the room, time and ability) to get a dog, but there are plenty of "right" (you need/want one and you can offer it love, shelter and food) times.

i keep y'all in my thoughts. much love and light.

JasperBoy said...

This is an absolute all time favourite post. I am going to book mark it to re-read everytime that I need a reminder to cuddle my Jasper that little bit closer.

Thank you.

Jen in Melbourne

Corinne Cooper said...

love this post....I have 2 dogs & I foster for a rescue in Tennessee (I live in Mass but they are transposrted North), it is so rewarding...I hope you find your new family member soon, there are so many dogs needing a good home.