Seeing a dog in a movie or some cute You Tube video may inspire you to go out and get a dog, but trust me, owning a dog is nothing like what you see on television or some twenty second cuteness clip. Owning a dog is a lot of work, and it’s a constant thing. You can’t unplug a dog or simply put it on a shelf somewhere. A dog is a dog twenty-four seven three sixty five. That is, unless you get a puppy and a puppy is a puppy for somewhere around three years. That’s twenty– one years in training time.
I recommend strays. Two of my three were at one point strays, and I’m here to tell you it’s a hell of a thing to pick something up off the highway that someone else threw out. Bert, the one dog I have that I got from a shelter, found Sam, The Happy Hound, near our home in the woods. Sam was a wreck. A woman in the vet’s office burst into tears when she first saw him. I didn’t think any living creature carrying that much abuse would live, or could live, but Sam has been with us now for over ten years. I can leave the gate open and Sam will be in the yard when I get back. Sam has discovered food in only one location on this earth and he is not going to leave. Part Lab, and part Greyhound, Sam has been an interesting mix to watch.
Lucas was a pure road find. I literally stopped and picked him up off the side of the road. He wasn’t nearly as in bad shape as Sam but he was slipping towards it. Lucas is primarily a Weimaraner but he also has something else tossed into the mix and I suspect strongly it’s Pit. I spend a lot of time with my dogs, and I spent a lot of Lucas’ puppyhood training him. “Stunted” as a word the vet used because Lucas had been malnourished for the first six months of his life.
Lucas weighs nearly a hundred pounds now. He’s the largest dog I’ve ever raised and he’s got he attitude to go with it. He isn’t mean or aggressive but he doesn’t back down from the Elder Mutts, Bert and Sam, anymore. Lucas seems to think I went out and looked for him in particular, ad that is why we are together. He likes being as close as possible to me, but he isn’t needy, like Sam is. Lucas rode in my lap on the way home the day I found him. He leaned into me, we
bonded right then, and it’s been an exceptional relationship since.
Living with dogs, especially a puppy, isn’t cheap or easy. Training, training, training, and then more training will make everyone’s live a lot easier and it can be frustrating. Accept the idea that dogs, like Bert, sometimes dig bunkers. Become one with the idea that some puppies, like Lucas, chew the siding off your house. Live with the idea that some breeds of dogs, like Lab and Greyhound mixes (SAM!), kill small mammals. I have not said it would be easy. I never
claimed it would be cheap. In order to override a dog’s instinct to dig, or destroy, or chase, or bark, or bite, the Alpha Pack Member has to spend enough time with the dog to understand why that dog is doing what he does when he does it. Dogs are a lot like children in they know who cares about them versus who is just trying to order them around. I keep order in a house where there is over two hundred fifty pounds of tame wolf embodied in three different fur suits, at least
six breeds of canine, with ages ranging from twelve to three. This isn’t a family. This is a pack. The dynamics of the three interacting can be intense. Dogs rely on two things and two things only when they react to the outside, and their own inside, world; their instincts and your training.
I want to say a few words about Pits while we’re talking about dogs. In fifty years I have never met a more loyal and loving breed of dog than Pit Bull Dogs. They are, however, very active and very motivated individuals. They need a lot of play or a lot of work. If you decide to get a Pit Bull then you are going to have to wear that animal out three or four times a week just to break even. You will either exercise a Pit or he will do it himself on his own terms. Pits are not good apartment dogs and they fare poorly tethered as most dogs do. You will deeply regret not talking proper care of a dog in general but in particular, negligent treatment of a Pit can have dire results. This is the fault of the caretaker of the dog, not the dog’s fault.
Do it right, and do it well, and you will find little on earth as rewarding as spending time with canines. They are made entirely of the unconditional love. They know when you are hurting or sad and will do much or anything to help you. They are fueled by play. They are joyous and happy creatures who live to worship you. They can be as fierce as they are loving. No one will ever harm your children as long as your dog draws breath. If Elizabeth Smart would have had a Pit Bull on her pillow you would have never heard her name. They bark at thieves and at fires. They stand watch at night and in day, in weather fair and foul, and all they ask is to be loved.
Dogs are not for everyone for many reasons, but if I found myself at the end of one of those reasons I would change my life so I could have a dog with me.
Mike writes regularly at his site: The Hickory Head Hermit
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.