Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Walk

I, Micah, love going for a walk, exploring the wider world, sniffing around and checking out the crazy animals that cross my path. My sisters (Brynda and Storm) also love these walks. We, especially Brynda, also love to run along beside the tricycle just moving our bodies and feeling the wind. Most of the time we really enjoy getting out, but not when we see another dog being dragged along by it's human or having to pull and pull to get anywhere. Why do these dogs do this? Why do the humans do this? What went wrong?

As a puppy, I followed my human around all the time. She was really good at finding all the interesting smells and objects and always pointed them out to me, sometimes running and waving and showing me something truly interesting. She would even help me chase squirrels up trees and commune with the ducks in the pond at the park. She still does this almost three years later when we're walking. When we're running, we're just enjoying the thrill of moving fast and catching all the smells there are. We also spent a lot of time at the dog park where she would play with us, teach us new things to do with balls and rags and whip the rabbit around on the end of the pole for us to chase and grab. She was usually the most interesting and exciting thing around. She also protected us from some of the bullies who would come to the park and always let us know that if we had to defend ourselves because some dufus was attacking that it was ok, that we wouldn't be punished because something had to be done to save our skins.

So what happens with other dogs? Why do they not have the same relationship with their humans? What went wrong?

For us dogs, when we’re out and about, most of us understand that it’s in our best interest to be connected to our owners one way or another for our own safety. Sure there are times when something will catch our attention and we'll want to chase it - it's part of our nature to do so. It's a survival instinct. If it moves, it's fair game. Even the cat that lives in our house knows this game. She knows that if she just walks, we'll sniff and maybe invite her to play, but if she runs, we have to chase, our legs take off and we just have to follow !!

As dogs, we have four legs. Our humans only have two and move SOOOOOOOOOO slowly. Humans seem to be unaware of this fact or they are so self-absorbed that they choose to ignore it. Many talk about a dog's need for exercise and then require that we do something so boring, so mindless that frustration is the inevitable result. The humans require that we move at their pace, which is agonizing, and never deviate from the path to sniff or explore. Humans rarely chase anything, they have no clue how to sniff for information about who was there an hour ago or yesterday or even last week, and they constantly want to stop to bark at other humans totally ignoring us dogs.

Another thing I've noticed with some of these humans is that they have no clue how to greet each other. They just walk straight up to each other and touch paws or even grab each other like they were mounting. They seem to forget that they are holding our leashes and that perforce we must follow their lead and do what they do. It's so alien and uncomfortable to meet another dog, or even another human, without all the ritual that keeps things calm and focused. You are supposed to curve in toward the other dog, take your time gathering information with your nose, maybe even turn away a few times to show that you mean no harm. We're predators and yet you want us to act like prey. When you force us to move so quickly, facing the other in confrontation, you are also forcing us to give off more exacting signals to the other dog that things are tense but that we'd like to keep things calm. Then you punish us for those calming signals !

Do you humans not wonder why we tend to get defensive about meeting others this way? Do you not wonder why we eventually end up lunging and barking and even biting? We wonder how you can do what you do without having a brawl right there on the sidewalk. You teach us that we can't rely on our subtle communications, our need to take things slow and calm. You teach us that we also shouldn't be using our major signals with yelling, yanking, poking, kicking, shocking and pinching. So what do you expect us to do? We are social creatures, just as you are, but when you deprive us of what we were taught by our parents on how to greet others, there is only one thing left - make the other go away by any means possible so that conflict doesn't happen.

Which means the end of our walks :(

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