Getting To Know You
I often write about how different dogs are from one another, but we also share some similarities. That may seem obvious to most humans, but it’s often hard to convince a dog that s/he is like another dog. I don’t spend too much time trying to persuade my canine friends of this, but I will offer up these observations.
Observation #1: Given a chance, we want to check each other out.
Evidence: Today, on the spur of the moment, Gretchen decided to pack Ollie, Gemma, and me into the car and head to Luther Burbank Dog Park. This was a real treat because, once again, it was hot and the park sits right on the edge of the lake so even if a dog doesn’t like to swim, s/he can at least take a dip and cool off.
But this does not prove my point. Once Gretchen lets us off the leash, the three of us race across the park to find out who else is in attendance. Today the park was packed with a wide variety of interesting dogs and each of us — those who came with Gretchen and those who were already at the park — gave a sniff and spin of greeting.
Observation #2: We find dogs who match our dog-analities.
Evidence: Ollie is a bouncy guy who raced across the park today to find a cute girl who was equally as bouncy. The two of them played together almost the entire time at the park and mimicked each other in their style of play. They were about the same size and certainly about the same amount of energy and within a matter of minutes, they were attracted to each other like kibbles and gravy.
Even dogs who are loners (like moi) spend some time checking out the other visitors. I, for instance, found a springer spaniel who enjoyed playing fetch in the water as much as I did. In fact, he kept stealing my ball. In the past, this would have driven me crazy and I would have barked at him like a mad man, but as I’ve matured, I’ve learned that the best way to deal with such a thief is to stare him down and when he’s not paying attention, steal my ball back.
I had to do this a lot yesterday because a lot of dogs like my orange and blue ball. And I’ll admit it: When I was younger and we ventured to dog parks, I’d sniff out the best possible toy and steal it from the older dogs. I’d never do it now, but I understand the desire. Perhaps that’s why I am a bit more patient about park thieves.
Observation #3: We like to observe.
Evidence: This may seem redundant (dog writing about observations makes the observation that we like to make observations), but if you look at the photographs from this morning’s adventure, you’ll see that even the busiest dogs (Gemma among them) stop, look, and observe the behavior of the other dogs.
Observation #4: When it’s time, we know when to spring into action.
Evidence: This may seem self explanatory, but dogs are very patient creatures. We get lots of practice, of course, waiting for our families to come home from work, to feed us, to play with us, to walk us, to pet us in that magic spot — but we also practice our patience with each other. Still, when it’s time to act, we act!
In the photograph to the left, Gemma illustrates the combination of two of the above observations. She stalked the spaniel and his white buoy, waited for her moment and then swooped into action and stole his buoy. He didn’t seem to mind, which, I suppose is another quality of dogs — we choose our battles wisely.
After the morning romp and splash at the park, we headed back to Seattle and dropped off a tired Ollie and an equally tired Gemma. I was tired, too, but I didn’t get much chance to rest. Gretchen dropped me off at the house while she walked over to get Bella. They went for a walk to the small park where Gretchen leashed Bella up on a long line and let her run around the park chasing a ball as well as her own shadow. Though she had the entire park in which to run, she stayed close to Gretchen and spent time smelling the grass and then rolling around in it.
Observation #5: We like to have our backs scratched.
Evidence: Humans are good people, but sometimes they don’t know the best way to please a dog. Yes, we like to have our ears scratched and our bellies rubbed, but a pat on the head isn’t always our favorite thing. Try it on yourself. Do you like it? Better yet, if given a choice would you like someone to massage your back or pat your head.
That’s what I thought. But because we are patient creatures, we allow you to pat us on the head (well, I don’t…I tend to back away) and we seek out other ways to get our back’s scratched. Bella, though she is young, has quickly learned that the best way to get her back scratched is to do it herself. She’s also learned that the best place to get a good rub is in a nice grassy park where one can kick up their paws to the sky and really get a nice scratch going.
Observation #6: When happy, we smile.
Evidence: See below…
After the park, Bella and Gretchen went on a walk where Bella got to practice her “heal” and “sit” and “wait” on the way back to our house. I’d had a bit of a rest, so I was very happy to see Ms. Bella when she arrived. She was happy to see me, too.
Observation #7: We are very adaptable.
Evidence: When I play with my friend Monty, we play as if we’re boxing. We stand up on our two hind legs and swat at each other again and again. Then we race around the yard in a game of wild chase. When I play with the neighbor dog, Lulu, we roll around on our backs and wrestle low to the ground. When I play with Gemma, she butts into me with her back end, nips at my back legs, and we spend a lot of time pushing each other around. If I weren’t adaptable, I’d have only one style of play, but I am adaptable so I’ve learned to play in the style of my friends.
Bella’s style of play, since she is young, is still developing…and yesterday we wrestled around, chased around, and eventually, because it was so hot, just rolled around in the cool grass.
As you can see, Bella is quite a contortionist. In fact, at one point, she was quite a clown — first standing over me and then rolling right over on the top of her head until finally, we just cuddled together in the lawn. Of course, it didn’t take us long to pop back up and play in a different style. Yes, we are adaptable… Check it out…
I have many more observations, but I think I’ve covered enough for today. We are interesting creatures and the more I explore the inner workings of a dog’s psyche, the more fascinating I find us to be.