Most any social system will have a hierarchical order to things. Even in a small social system, someone is in charge – someone is the top dog. This is true of people, it is even more so of animals.
Dolly Dawg was a free range mountain dog since before we got here in December of 2001. Someone had tried to train her as a hunting dog, failed, and disposed of her by dumping her here on Piney Mountain. After we moved into our place we spotted her sitting in a clump of boulders sixty or seventy feet up the mountain slope from our home, watching us as we worked at getting settled. But she would not approach, and would slink off into the trees if we paid much attention to her.
So we began accidentally leaving a pie plate of kibbles out by the tree line. While our backs were turned we would hear ravenous crunching. With time, kibbles, and a great deal of patience we became friends. We christened her Dolly because of her eyes, she looked all made up and ready to go out: Dolled up: Dolly. Eventually she decided that we could stay and she would look after us.
We learned that Dolly was queen of the mountain, all other free range dogs deferred to her. Some came to play with her, to hunt with her, to lounge in the sun with her. She was a beneficent monarch.
HairyFace has been talking to Jen at the Newport Animal Shelter about a meet & greet between Buster and Melissa. We know this because Blondie sneaks into Hairy’s computer to look at his e-mail and Facebook when he goes out to garden.
We’re not sure what a meet & greet is but we’re pretty sure it involves a truck ride. We all like truck rides. All except Boomer. He doesn’t hate them, but he could do without them quite easily.
But Buster loves truck rides, so every morning this week when Hairy takes Buster out for a walk, Buster tows Hairy over to the truck and sits by the passenger door. “No, Buster. No truck ride today.” Even this morning – except it was different: “No, Buster. No truck ride yet. Later.”
Kingsley and I took our last ride together this morning.
Kingsley has lived with us for the past 3 months. Almost 3 months: tomorrow would have been his anniversary with us. During that time we helped cure him of a heartworm infestation and taught him “civilized” behavior. He was pretty unruly when he came in.
During his exam the Vet Tech, Alicia, commented, “You are just a totally different dog from when you left here.” And he has come a long way. He is now ready to go live in a good home and enjoy a good life.
Kingsley passed his physical and is queued up for loading into the Rolling Rescue van this evening. I am at that postpartum depression point. I go through it with nearly all of them. I’ll get over it. It’s that look he gives me when I put him in his transport crate. It says, “Wait, wait, where are YOU going? Aren’t you taking me home? What did I *DO*? I’m SORRY!”
I tell him, “You’re starting a new chapter in your life, bud, and that chapter doesn’t include me. Things are going to be confusing for a few hours. Maybe a little scary. But once you are there, it will be worth it all. You’re starting a new chapter, and it will be wonderful. Even if it doesn’t seem so right now.”
Of course, he doesn’t understand any of that. But I hope the tone of my voice tells him that I’m not mad. He isn’t being punished.
I sometimes wonder if dogs retain memories of past experiences. I’m pretty sure they do: I’ve seen dogs that were traumatized by something and retain a fear of similar situations. It works for fear and self-preservation. What about good things? Will Kingsley remember Marie and I? Is it just vanity that I even wonder that? I don’t know. We did our part: we took him in, cared for him during his treatment and recovery and trained him in civilized behavior. Now he’s going to where he has a better opportunity to be adopted into a loving forever home. That’s a lot better than being put to death because no one wanted him. I’ll assauge my postpartum depression with that knowledge.
Besides, I still have Buster to get well enough to adopt. And Boomer is half-way through his recovery, I need to start campaigning to find him a home to go to. And Smokey: he’s in recovery and will be needing a home soon. Then there will be another. There is always another. There are so many good dogs who have been abandoned or snatched out of abusive situations, we will keep busy. But, should we find ourselves on furlough because all the dogs have good homes, it wouldn’t bother me a bit!
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