The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Monday, December 12, 2016

It's a Dog's World

For almost three years Diane and I have shared our home with a wonderful little dog named Maddie. Now almost nine years old she is a rescued Bichon Frise who has seemingly adapted well to our household. Last evening I took a photo of of her doing what she does best (below). As you can see, she makes herself comfortable wherever she likes, and in this instance has made good use of one of Diane's Christmas pillows and a red throw. The deep dents in the white sofa cushions are the result of her testing out various napping spots. She prefers the extra-soft, down-filled cushions on the living room sofa and do I. Fortunately, Bichons don't shed so I need not follow her around with a vacuum cleaner.
Maddie's a very happy little critter and complains only when we leave her alone for more than a few moments. She also smiles a lot which is a common trait among Bichons, a remarkably sociable and friendly breed. Right now she's resting on the bed in the guest bedroom from which she has a commanding view of our front yard. She seems to believe her primary job is to warn us when anyone steps foot on the property. I consider this adequate work for her room and board; but because she also offers us real affection, we provide her with all kinds of tasty treats -- a true symbiotic relationship.

Among her favorite treats are the large sized milk-bones (see photo below), the kind marketed to big dogs. But when given one of these treats Maddie won't eat it, at least not right away. She will walk throughout the house, milk-bone sticking out of her mouth, sometimes for an hour or more. Then she'll usually "bury" it under a throw pillow and retrieve it the next day. Eventually she will eat it but not before completing this ritual of instinctive canine behavior.
Maddie and I walk together for a mile or two every morning and every evening. The Villages is home to many dogs, so we often encounter several as we stroll through the surrounding neighborhoods. Interestingly, Maddie has never barked or growled at or tried to attack another dog, regardless of the other dog's attitude. Based on her reaction to the dogs we encounter, I've concluded that she places dogs in one of three categories. 

First, there are the nasty little -- and some not so little -- dogs. They represent perhaps 20% of the dogs we meet on our walks and include the small yappers and ankle-biters that really care little for other living beings. The category also includes a few -- and only a few -- large dogs that view other dogs as prey. For example, we sometimes encounter a large Akita who growls whenever it sees another human or canine. Maddie senses the nastiness of all these dogs long before they approach and simply encourages me to avoid them.

Maddie seems to lump many other dogs into the second category. These are the indifferent dogs and represent maybe a third of the dogs we meet. Maddie tries to approach them, wagging her tail in friendship, but they simply ignore her and continue on. These rejections of her offered affection always seem to surprise her. but she quickly puts it behind her. 

The final category includes what I call the dogs with good hearts, the dogs that simply enjoy the presence of humans and other dogs. Maddie herself falls in this category, so I suppose it's natural that she would gravitate to others of her kind. When she spots one approaching, she will often just sit down and wait for them to arrive. They then sniff and play and enjoy each other.

As an aside, I've often noticed that the person on the other end of the leash mimics the behavior of the dog (or vice versa): grumpy, indifferent and happy dogs tend to be accompanied by grumpy, indifferent or happy human beings respectively.

Speaking of happy dogs, someone recently sent me a link to a video of a rescued Pit Bull named Brinks who smiles constantly -- certainly among the happiest-looking dogs I've ever seen.  I've included two videos of Brinks, the one my friend sent me and another of Brinks walking through his Brooklyn neighborhood. This is one neat dog who has apparently become a YouTube celebrity.

Actually, the Pit Bull is a wonderful breed, a naturally friendly and protective dog that makes an excellent family pet. Sadly the breed has been often mistreated and misused by far too many people resulting in its rather bad reputation. In fact, one neighborhood dog is part Pit Bull and he and Maddie have become fast friends. He's about four times her size but that doesn't seem to bother her at all. His name happens to be Trump (no relation), a name he was given long before the onset of the recent presidential race. On our twice-daily walks Maddie insists we go out of our way to visit Trump. 

Over the years our family has been blessed by many good dogs, both large and small, but I really think little Maddie is my favorite. 

By the way, according to the Harvard Health blog: “The evidence reviewed by the AHA indicates that dog owners are more likely to exercise, have a better cholesterol profile, have lower blood pressure, be less vulnerable to the physical effects of stress, and be more likely to survive a heart attack.” Sounds like a good reason to bring a dog into your life.

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