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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Neighbor Dog

It's nice to be snug as a bug in a rug at home, and to be able to contemplate the inside of one's mouth -- to think inward thoughts.

Bow has the luxury of doing just that for as long as he likes. But he also likes to go outside and brave the elements.

Yesterday morning, it was windy and cold and it looked as if a storm was approaching.

We seemed on the verge of a storm.

Every direction you looked, it looked as if something big was about to happen in the sky.

Bow went inside and then went out again, and as a way to keep warm, he displayed.

Leo obliged Bow by engaging him, while Brownie remained aloof.

But there was no storm. Things settled down. In the afternoon, as I was going for my regular walk, I spotted a dog going into my pasture, entering from the road into the bushy underbrush. I decided to pretend that I did not see that, because the last thing I wanted was a confrontation about neighbor dogs on my property. Maybe if I ignored the dog, the dog would ignore me.

But he didn't ignore me. He came right up and greeted me as if we were old friends, and for a moment I was disoriented, and I thought he looked just like my old dog Osiris, who was born near Harrison, Arkansas and whose photo is always on my mantel. He died before I went to grad school.

Bow looks at a photo of Osiris

But then I realized it was just Cowboy. the neighbor dog. And Cowboy wanted to join me in my walk. I didn't invite him, but when he saw that I was going for a walk on my mowed path, he decided he would lead the way.

Just to be certain he didn't lose me, Cowboy kept turning back to make sure I was still on the path.

What I found most interesting was the way he stuck to the path, when he could easily have gone exploring in the underbrush. If you did not know any better, you might have been convinced that he had been trained not to leave the well-trodden path. However, that was not the case. When we parted ways, he went to explore the brambles and the narrow footways the deer and rabbits and coyotes had made among the trees and bushes. It was just that as long as we were keeping company, he understood that I would not stray from the path, so neither did he.

If we were in an American city, Cowboy, with no apparent collar or tags, would be considered a stray. But since we are living in the country, people know who he is and where he lives, and since he does not cause any harm, he is tolerated. Even I tolerate him, because he does not go near the fence to tease my dogs, the way some latchkey dogs have been known to do when their masters are away.

Should dogs be allowed to roam? It's a question that I've thought about before. In Taiwan, even in the cities, there are stray dogs who are well behaved and well fed, even though they are not owned.

The Strays of Tamsui

Feral dogs, people will warn you, can form packs and attack livestock, other dogs and even people. I know this, not just because I have been told, but because I have seen it out here with my own eyes, before there was even a "shelter" in this county. Dogs got shot when they broke the rules.

I don't let my own dogs roam, just as I would never allow Bow to go out under the present conditions. I am a very cautious person. But I can't help but feel that when we get used to a certain context, such a society that is intolerant of stray dogs and stray children and homeless people, we are moving one step closer to our own imprisonment and that of our children.

Stray dogs and stray children used to be the hallmark of every human city, and while their presence was sometimes an eyesore and a nuisance, I would rather see them roam free than all get institutionalized and/or adopted. I would rather see dogs adopting humans than humans adopting dogs. Brownie, for instance, chose us.

Cowboy reminded me yesterday that a dog out on his own can be well behaved and trustworthy, and that it takes a certain type of community to allow us to see that this, too, is a possibility.


  1. In the first video, I thought perhaps you had turned over your phone to Bow to let him make a video from his perspective. Would that even be possible? It would be fun and interesting (if he wouldn't destroy your phone), to let him take one!
    As to the strays - I see some here, running down the trails we have mowed. They aren't too much nuisance here, but they do chase the cows & calves on adjoining property and will someday be caught going about their nuisance behavior and sadly, shot. But they can't be allowed to chase cattle and potentially cause injuries...I understand that.
    Nikki and I encountered a pack of dogs that had become feral on our road, a few years ago when we had hiked about 2 miles away from home. I can usually intimidate a dog, or two or three, and persuade them to leave us alone. But not this pack. They surrounded us and were determined to attack Nikki. I was able to maneuver myself over to a big stick and swung at them until I had backed us out of the situation and we retreated out of their territory. It was kind of scary - I knew they would kill Nikki if I let them get very close, so I never went back that way again.
    I have mixed feelings over strays. Even if people feed them scraps, etc. they're not getting a proper diet that would allow them to survive a normal, healthy lifespan, nor the vet care required to keep them from acquiring rabies and various other maladies.
    Every other dumped / abandoned dog that I've come across on our journeys, have followed me home. I'm like the freaking pied piper when it comes to dogs. Bob has told me that he watches for me to come down our driveway on our returns to see if I'm bringing another dog home so he can get ready. LOL

    1. Hi, Kathy. Bow can't really shoot very good videos because the moment he gets hold of the phone all he wants to do is look at himself in the camera and make funny faces. (I can't shoot very good videos because of other reasons. ;) )

      It is very scary to encounter a pack of feral dogs, and I have had that experience. Of course, I was shaken at the time and prepared to kill if necessary. I had a small child in the house and baby chimp, and they were attacking me on my own turf.

      But... I also recognize that the culling process that is violent and gets rid of dogs that are too aggressive is the same one that allows well behaved dogs to roam. I think many of our policies are short sighted -- just to get rid of a temporary inconvenience -- but have long term consequences for the quality of life of all of us.

      I think people are now afraid of all the homeless in certain cities precisely because those few of them who are dangerous are not apprehended.

      As for what the proper diet is for a dog, that is whole other topic! I think a lot the dog food on the market is not as nutritious as table scraps. But of course, that depends on what we are eating ourselves!

  2. Thanks for sharing your very deep thoughts. Here at my ranch I have seen stray cows, a lone pronghorn deer, and long time ago I used to see a huge German Shepherd dog entertain himself by creeping under fences.

    1. Thanks, Ann. Living on your ranch, I imagine you have seen a lot of independent animals, as well as those that are thoroughly domesticated. There's room in this world for both.