Sabbie runs into the park in circles. It’s all about the ball.
Throw the ball! Throw the ball! Don’t just stand there, throw the ball! What are you waiting for? Throw the ball!
Mosh gets so excited he can’t believe they’re actually there. He drives Sabbie nuts.
Sabbie! We’re at the park. Can you believe it? We’re at the park! Play with me! Play with me! Come on . . . play with me!
As he settles into it, it’s clear all Mosh ever really wants in life is someone to chase him. He doesn’t care if your fur is white, or mottled, or toasty brown with the little burnt tips on your ears and toes. In fact, I’ve never met a dog who cares if another is purebred or a mongrel. It’s what’s under the fur that counts. We could learn a lot from our canine friends.
There are dogs in wheelchairs and three-legged dogs, and blind dogs too. The great thing about dogs is that they don’t leave anyone out. Everyone with a nose and a butt are welcomed to join their circle.
Ever seen a dog tease another one about his age? No, I didn’t think so. If you’re willing to play, join in! If you need to take a break and watch, that’s fine too.
I’ve seen little terriers humping (or trying to, anyway) Great Danes. The heart wants what the heart wants. More importantly, I’ve never seen any of the other dogs care. Why do some people care so much who someone else loves?
Are female dogs concerned with their body image? No way. They know they’ve got it. If she swings her tail in just the right way, it doesn’t matter if she’s the shape of a German sausage, she’s going to have that boy-dog on a short leash.
A dog doesn’t care if you’re sporting a diamond collar or a fleece sweater or little rubber boots. Well . . . okay, those boots are kind of weird. But he knows your human put those on you, and those humans? They have issues.
Me: You know what is nice about cats? They don’t beg you to throw a ball, or ask to go in and out and in and out. They can sit and stare out the window for hours at a time. Bubba: Yeah, I got a pet rock that will do the same thing. Me: Really? Well, if it picks up its own poop, I might be interested.
So if they aren’t amused staring out the window all day, what DO dogs look at all day?
I’m pretty sure this is all Barney sees while we are out.
Sabbath finds comfort in items around the house while we are at work.
Sometimes it’s more than she can stand.
I wonder what I look like to them as they wait for something to fall off the counter while I’m preparing dinner?
On weekends, they like to go outside early in the morning . . .
The best part of any weekend is the dog park!
At the park, Barney finds frogs in the grass (can you find the frog? Barney can! — click the pic to enlarge)
. . . and chases them into the pond where Sabbath is swimming.
When we get home, Barney is exhausted and collapses in the yard . . .
Just because dogs don’t speak words, doesn’t mean they are any less communicative. There is an imperceptible language that happens between animals of all species. Dogs have it. And humans have it, if we pay attention. It is that something that tells us, “I think I like you.”
Barney can greet other dogs for half an hour at the park, and then take off after one particular pooch, chasing as if he is half his age. It’s that thing. Chemistry? Somehow you are suddenly aware that you want to know more about that person, or play with them in the grass!
We humans love it when our dogs get along. We encourage them and laugh when they bow down to invite another to play. We love it when their tails wag and they give each other positive signs of companionship. But just like humans, canine creatures need negative forms of communication as well. They need to be able to say “Dude, you’re all up in my grill,” and “Don’t sniff me there,” or “Hey, I’m not that kind of girl.”
For the most part people have learned to suppress the urge to growl and bite. We teach our children young to “use your words.” We think of our pets as little humans, and want them to play nice as well. Dogs use the only “words” they can, and sometimes it scares us. However, being the refined creatures they are, they usually walk away from confrontation, and no more than a raised lip or a low growl is needed.
Many humans come to the “rescue” of a dog that doesn’t need rescuing. Imagine if you had someone doing all your talking for you. “Oh, she doesn’t like red. Do you have one in blue?” “He likes paper, not plastic.” Sooner or later, you would probably forget how to talk, look at that person every time someone walked up to you, and hide behind them if someone even looked like they wanted to greet you. You wouldn’t even be able to flip someone off in traffic by yourself!
Barney loves the little dogs, and is especially mild mannered with them. But sometimes his size is a little too intimidating for them. Like most dogs, Barney isn’t interested in hanging around where he isn’t wanted. He will happily find another butt to sniff if the little guy suggests he should.
Yet some humans don’t even give their dog a chance to sniff Barney. They pick up their pup the minute they see big black Barney round the corner. Whether they are afraid their dog will snap at Barney, or that Barney will play rough with him, they are reinforcing messages to their dog that he is unable to “use his words.”
Please know that I do possess a little common sense. I would never recommend humans stand around and encourage dogs to fight. That isn’t civilized for any species. There are also those who bring a dog to the park that does not socialize well with other dogs. It is always important to be aware of your own dog’s triggers and cues. In my experience, moving away from an escalating situation and simply continuing our walk is the antidote.
Very rarely, there are those instances when, by some humanly imperceptible signal, one dog says to another “Are you looking at me?” “You want a pieceof me?” And when push comes to shove, a dog has to stick up for what he believes in. Embarrassed people must step in, break it up, and apologize. Later, I will ask, “Did that dog give you the stink-eye?” After all, I can understand a thing like that.
At the risk of inviting argument, I would suggest that we give the pups a chance to have a word on their own. It may sound gruff or threatening to us, but to dogs it’s the only language they know, and it is actually a quite effective one that usually ends in a mutually peaceful agreement.
Much time and money is spent figuring out what our pets are trying to tell us. My dogs seem to devote just as much effort trying to figure out what I am saying to them. “Go,” “Treat,” “Walk,” “Outside,” “Hungry,” and “Cookie” are very popular words around here. But every now and then I think they know a little more than they let on.
One day, trying to get Barney out of the car, I clicked my tongue and said, “C’mon boy!” No go. He looked at me like I was patronizing him. So I reasoned with him. “You know, if you wouldn’t mind getting out of the car, I can close the door and carry this stuff into the house.” He stood up and stepped out of the car.
Another time Sabbath wanted me to pick up the ball and throw it. I was, to her dismay, too lazy . . er, uh . . . comfortable in my chair to get up and get the ball. I tried exciting her, my voice getting higher with each exclamation. “Go get it! Get the ball! Get the ball!” I tried coaxing her. “Bring mama the ball, baby.” Finally it was the heart to heart that did it. Again I used reasoning. “Tell you what. That ball is not going to throw itself. If you want to chase it, you’re probably going to have to go over there, pick it up and bring it over here.” So she did.
. . . And so I’ve learned not to humiliate them with puppy-talk.
Overheard around our dog/human family:
“Aren’t you done sniffing that bush yet? Honestly, Barney. NOTHING smells THAT good.”
“Please don’t look so sad when I go to work. Someone has to bring home the kibble and I don’t see either of you getting off your butts.” *pointing finger back and forth between them*
“Okay, who pooped right outside the back door? Who DOES that?”
“Do I look like I want to throw a Frisbee right now?”
“Sabbie, you really ought to play a little hard-to-get with Gus next door. You don’t want to give him the wrong impression.”
“You know I can’t resist you when you look at me like that, don’t you?”
“Why did you bark at that dog like that? Did he give you the stink-eye? I bet that’s what it was, wasn’t it? He gave you the stink-eye!”
And to the small terrier trying to hump the Great Dane at the dog park?
The dog park is like Valleyfair for dogs. If you aren’t from Minnesota, replace “Valleyfair” with Legoland, Six Flags, or Disneyland. Basically, you’re looking at an amusement park for dogs. On the way there, they sit on the edge of their seats, look out the front window and whine, “Are we there yet?”
Barney is an old boy. He wasn’t always old. Like myself, Barney once loved to run when he managed to get free. He would glide gracefully over bushes, streak across the occasional golf course, and could stop on a dime for a good sniff in the grass. At the dog park, he now ambles clumsily with a stiff back and old paws. But if you look closely, you can still see the wild in his eyes.
Barney has taken on the role of the official greeter at the park. Whenever we stop at a bench, a field, or the swimmin’ hole, he wanders around waiting for newcomers. Tail wagging, he puts his one ear up and jogs over to say hello, which entails both nose- and butt-sniffing.
When the greeting business is slow, he goes exploring. Off in the high brush, he imagines he is a lone wolf who has been lost from his pack. Sometimes, the only clues we have to his whereabouts are the rustlings in the woods, or the movement of the grasses. Other times, it is a black tail or the one ear flagging his bearings. On one of our recent trips, we saw him bouncing — something I hadn’t seen since he was a pup — through the grass, tail waving wildly, nose pointed downward. There were tiny toads all over the park and Barney was determined to play!
Sabbath is the pup at only a year and half of age. She is also smaller by about 25 pounds, maybe more. She is named after the band, not the day of religious observance. The only time she shows awareness of the other dogs at the park is when she thinks they are after her ball. She lives for the catch.
Sabbath’s favorite part of Valleyfair is the waterpark. Other human park-dwellers have recorded her water maneuvers. Proud, we imagine them showing the video at home for proof of this amazing animal they saw that day. Young children squeal with delight when she cannonballs in the water! While Barney is our steadfast canine companion, Sabbath is clearly our entertainment.
Just like any other trip to Valleyfair, the “kids” will often sleep on the way home. Not a peep — just stinky, happy dogs! At home the parents wearily put all the gear away before crashing on the couch for an hour. Dinner is quiet, the pups are calm and go to bed early.
The next day the parents are wakened to bumps along the side of the bed. It’s the “kids” asking when is everyone getting up and . . . . “Can we go to Valleyfair again?