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November 12, 2012: Jenna’s Turn

This morning I told Alys that I wanted to compose a dispatch. Alys, who is Alys, that is very self-absorbed, didn’t hear me. I hadn’t previously seen my voicing my opinion about things as being all that important. But yesterday, after Rainbow had her say, I felt like I had to chime in. I got Alys to hear me out, by sitting right next to her chair and looking up, directly into her eyes. And I said with all my being “It’s my turn!” Alys knew what I meant—her one objection was that she thought that her readers probably had enough of first-person animal dispatches for now. But she agreed to let me have my say. This is it—Rainbow’s high degree of focus sometimes makes her oblivious to certain things, one of which is that I’m as smart a dog as she is.

Jenna drives and Rainbow rides

The central difference is that Rainbow, who is left brained, is logical, analytical, and self-absorbed; while I, who am right brained, is emotional, empathetic, and attuned to the feelings of all creatures. For instance, Rainbow will kill mice. However, I encourage them to run for their fury little lives.

So, being what we are, our priorities are vastly different. This is reflected in our somewhat dissimilar upbringings. Rainbow, because of early circumstances beyond her control, comes across as a supposedly very independent soul. She was, at six weeks, taken on by a relatively poor family with numerous children, and consequently put on a rope. She one day decided she had enough, and chewed through the line. Alys found her a few days later, and she and Pete eventually adopted her. In the time in between, she spent time in an animal shelter, and there she saw several dogs euthanized. People, she then decided, could not be fully trusted.

However, Rainbow is actually a somewhat independent soul. She loves Alys and Pete, who she has since discovered, understand her as well as any human could understand any dog. They give her space, which she needs, and make sure that she gets fed twice daily. And they take her places with them. Last summer, for example, she got to go on a long trip. Rainbow has since told me that her one regret was that this trip wasn’t longer. She is at heart, a nomadic dog. But deep down, she fears that Alys and Pete might someday abandon her. Upon hearing this I told her, fat chance—you are at the center of their universe.

Enough about Rainbow: As my somewhat similar story shows, I’m actually her polar opposite. Four years ago my original owners left me on a doorstep and called Alys and Pete to come and get me. They told them they were moving. Things, Alys gathered, had not been going well. And they were right. My owners, a husband, wife, and teenage daughter, were constantly arguing. And then the teenage daughter had a baby. I was then forced to spend the majority of my time on a mat by the door. I was never, before or after, more despondent.

Alys and Pete rode their horses over to where I was living. Alys found me sitting on a stoop, with a bowl full of water and a bag of dog food. Alys got off her horse, came over to me, and said that she’d make sure that I’d always be well cared for. And she was true to her word. But as I understood it, my future was up in the air. Said Pete, one dog was enough.

I attempted to convince them to take me in, by being loyal to Alys and Pete. This was true to my genetic make-up. After all, we Australian Shepherds are good at this. I first took on the role of a service dog. Whenever one or the other was tense, I’d go over to their side, and shove my nose under their hand. As I well knew, petting an animal lowers one’s blood pressure.

I also took on the role of trail companion, which is another thing that dogs of my kind are good at. My previous owner and Alys used to go riding together. Alys then saw that I was a good trail companion. I reminded her of this on our first day out, by keeping close, but at the same time keeping out from under Raudi’s feet. What I did worked, for at our ride’s end, Alys announced to Pete “we’re keeping her!” And Pete, after raising a few half-hearted objections, finally said “well, all right!”

I’ve since accompanied Alys on most trail rides. She’s told others that she enjoys having me along because all the horses, and especially Raudi, are then less nervous. She’s right on this score. Raudi’s often told me that she likes having me along, because I keep the wolves at bay. So, I continue to assess the trail situation, making sure that horse and rider are safe, and that they have a sense of where they are going.

I’m now eleven years old, and well know that my days of being a trail companion are numbered. In fact, yesterday Pete called me “the old lady.” It’s true, I’ll someday look up when Alys is heading out and tell her that I’ve decided to stay home. My job will then be to keep the bed warm. Although I’m enjoying what I’m doing, this is something to look forward to.

Next: 338. 11/13/12: Animal Communication