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Saturday, March 07, 2015

Man's Best Friend

I haven't written about my dogs yet. Well, they're not my dogs, they belong to the family with whom I live. But I'm going to be moving out soon, and I will miss them terribly.

From left to right they are Oreo, a 1-year old shih tzu, Petrie (or Pete), a ten-year-old dachshund, and Paco, a six-year-old bichon/poodle mix (we think). As you can see, they are completely adorable.

Oreo and Paco, being the younger boys, pal around together and play fight all the time. Petrie is the senior member of the group, and only occasionally gets involved in the tomfoolery. He is more reserved, but sometimes I will spend a lot of time with him. Recently he was shaking a bit--maybe it was too cold inside, and I wrapped him up in a blanket and held him like a baby.

Oreo, as a puppy, is the most rambunctious. He jumps, he chews, he begs, he has been known to poop in the house, but you look into his eyes and all is forgiven. He is extremely loving, and is almost always cuddling up to someone in the house. But I hate when he begs. He'll actually put his front paws on your leg, and when you tell him, "No!" he'll give you a little bark of dissatisfaction.

Paco was a rescue of sorts. We're not sure what he went through his first few years of life, because he is afraid of certain things, like his food dish. But he's my favorite. I look into his eyes while I'm talking to him and I almost feel like he's understanding what I'm saying. He also seems to love me the most out of three. He's the most likely to come lay with me in my bed. I feel a kinship to him somehow, as if he knows my secrets.

I'm not the first to wax rhapsodic about a relationship between man and dog. But it is one of life's great treasures. I've never had my own dog as an adult--I was allergic (I don't seem to be now) and I didn't want to have one while I lived alone, cooping up a dog in an apartment all day. I had one as a kid. Her name was Betsy, and she was a Dalmatian, and after 35 years I still miss her. She was so sweet, and unlike most Dalmatians, was very laid back, which I think she got from us as a family.

Dogs have such a fascinating evolutionary history. First of all, it's hard to believe that a chihuahua and a Rottweiler are the same species. But they all developed from the same ancestor, a wolf-like creature who hunted. Eventually some of these creatures figured out that being a companion to man, and getting fed by him, was a lot easier than hunting. The evolutionary trait that has led them to this is the ability to "read" people. Because dogs have learned to give unconditional love, they have become essential parts to many households. A hundred years ago, dogs did a lot of work, and weren't allowed in the house, but now they have turned almost completely into creatures that are designed to do not much more than love people.

Of course, certain traits remain. Dogs will mark their territory, and the barking they do at anything that gets near the house is age-old from their instinct at protecting what is theirs. Petrie, who as a dachshund was bred to go down into badger dens, still likes to burrow. He will climb on the bed and nose under the blankets, sometimes until he is completely covered. Shih tzus were bred for Chinese royalty, and sometimes Oreo will strike a regal pose, even if he is named after a cookie.

When I get my own place, I will look into getting my own dog. As a teacher I get out early so the dog wouldn't have to be alone for too long. A good dog can chase away the worst blues.

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