Home > Dispatches > Daily Dispatches 2014 > Daily Dispatch #60

March 1, 2014: What Makes us Human, err Dog

Today, during dog training, Jim, Vikki, and I were following Stacie B, who is beginning to work with Myka, an eight month old Australian Shepherd/Border Collie cross. Her sole goal was to play with Myka, using the tug toy, this, out on the trail. Myka was at first hesitant to play – Stacey speculated that this was because she’d been in the truck for some time. I thought that Myka was just not in the mood.

Myka slowly got into playing – then after a bit, she was tugging, growling, chasing the tug toy around. Then at one point, Myka bowled Stacey over, and the pair wrestled around on the trail. This was

Iditarod dog resting in Rohn

actually the first time I’d ever seen Stacey happy. Her older dog Sage recently died – since, she’s been in mourning. Seeing the two interact, Stacey both literally and figuratively on the dog’s level, I thought, some say being around dogs makes us human. But, far preferable, I am now thinking, to think the reverse, that is being around dogs makes us dogs. I mean, think about it – dogs have far more figured out than we give them credit for. (So do horses, but I will elaborate on this tomorrow.)

Dogs primarily live in the present. I say primarily because they’re sometimes forward thinkers. Dogs that won’t go in crates or cages, yes, they are thinking ahead. At the moment in which Stacey and Myka were on the ground, she was truly dog.

Dogs also enjoy interacting with other dogs. I watched as Stacey’s two dogs, Myka and Jake, and my dog Ryder played dog games in the parking lot. The three raced about, stopping ever so often to sniff butt, play bow, and engage in other posturing activities. And I took note when humans stopped talking to one another and (with great interest) watched the goings on. At the moment in which they did this, they were truly dog.

Dogs also enjoy pitting their energies against ours. Jim was the subject for Ryder when it was her turn to be worked with. I was skeptical about his being the subject, because this 58 year old man has never appeared to me to be that physically active. However, he put his heart and soul in being Ryder’s subject. He played with her with her tug toy, he raced off making all kinds of noises, and he played with her again when she found him. All the while, Jim was truly dog.

So, getting down on a dog’s level, mentally and physically, this is what makes us dog. And this is a very good thing to do for we then are truly one with the canine.

Search and rescue involves “creating play” for dogs. We encourage them to smell a scent object, sniff, sniff, sniff in search of one of our kind, locate the person, and for their hard work, be rewarded with one of their own toys. One is supposed to make this fun for the dog, but indeed, it is very serious business because it’s the business of saving lives. A dog that dawdles when asked to find someone is shirking its duties.

In order to fully be dog that we must enjoy being with them, and if training them, enjoy the process of figuring out what needs to be done. If it isn’t fun, well then, one is most likely erring on the side of being human instead of on the side of being dog.

I was dog today, briefly. I got home, and after doing the chores, took Rainbow, Ryder, and Jenna for a walk. The sun was by then low in the sky, so I knew that we ought not go far. All the while, as they were racing around, I delighted in their delight. They were all happy to be out and about – Rainbow and Jenna had been left in the house – and Ryder had spent considerable time in the truck. Ryder chased Rainbow, and Jenna followed – making her monotonous dog sound. I was glad (at that moment) to have gotten them out. Or maybe they were glad to have gotten me out. Dunno. What I do know was that during that walk, I, who appreciated my canine buddies, was dog.

Next: 61. 3/2/14: A Conversation with Raudi, author of Raudi’s Story