Wednesday, April 5, 2017

More On the 'Forever Home' and What Dogs Need

This will make more sense if you read my previous post, titled The Pleasant Fantasy of the Forever Home 

 I think that those who have working dogs tend to have a different perspective.  They know that a stock dog, no matter how good, has a working life that is often a good bit shorter than the dog’s overall life span.  Some, like J----. and others, keep their retirees - using them for work a little, and just letting them hang out with their family otherwise.  Some find them pet homes.  Some put a bullet behind their ear.  I do not presume to quarrel with any of them. (I can even see that for some dogs, the bullet would be preferable to growing fat on a sofa.)

The dogs I worry about are those who have been purchased or adopted by humans who have bought into some gospel about "how a dog should live." 

Dogs are all different.  It takes effort to step outside the clamor of one's own political correctness and hear what the dog is telling you.  Or just to admit that you don't have real love for a given dog.  If you find yourself in a space of "if only he were X, Y, or Z," There's a good chance that dog would be better off with someone else.  Does that make you a bad person?  Only if the dog is trapped in a place where it knows it doesn't belong. 

M--- said:
...he tried to rehome one mature dog once, because there were people who came often to his place and really liked that one dog.  The dog came back, and what my fired said is that she did not just form the bond with him, but that she came back to her pack....

I think this idea of returning to the pack has merit. I think dogs are hard-wired to seek stability and a place within a pack. As a result, they tend to do whatever reinforces this. 

There are people - pet owners included - that want mutual respect and a good working relationship with their dogs.  There are others that are all about how they and the dog love each other.  The latter type tend to want regular and marked demonstrations of affection from their dogs.  They tend to have the kind of dog that practically bowls them over every time they return from an errand - even one as short as taking the garbage out.  If the dogs don't jump around, lick, whine and propeller-wag, they feel that the dog is unhappy with them. Or it somehow doesn't love them as much as it did ten minutes ago.

When I come home my dog sometimes meets me at the door and seems quite pleased to see me. Sometimes she just rolls over, opens one eye, gives a lazy tail thump and goes back to sleep. I don't think either response is an indication of how much she loves me.  Imagine what it would be like if you took the garbage out and your spouse reacted to your return by leaping about, showering you with kisses and wriggling ecstatically.   I don't know about you, but I'd be thinking about calling the men in white coats...

But dogs pick up pretty quickly if such fawning demonstrations are important to their owners.  So, in the interest of a stable and happy pack, they supply the theatrics. 

I don't think my dog loves me any less that the throw-a-party greeter loves his.  I just don't require that variety of "testifying."

I have cared for the dogs of others on occasion.  Some of those dogs were the sort that did the throw-a-party thing at the door for their owners.  What I found was that the party-throwers, while glad to see me, soon ceased the Wagnerian opera sequence at the door; nor did they have to be prompted to do so.  Perhaps I anthropomorphize, but some of them seemed relieved to dispense with all that hullabaloo.

All of which is to say that the rehomed dog most often seems to insert itself into a new pack fairly easily - as long as that pack is not a dysfunctional one.  If they have a new owner that can dispense love and stability in proportionate measure, they will likely settle well and fairly quickly.  And if there is work to passionately immerse themselves in - so much the better.

All photos © Geonni Banner