by Christina Carson
I’m one of those dog lover types. I've been licked by them, snuggled by them, entertained by them, guarded by them, taught, bitten and saved by them. This world would be incomplete without them. How dogs came to be part of the lives of Homo sapiens is still more conjecture than fact. But somewhere the love affair started, and we have been nothing but better for it. They have assisted us with innumerable tasks, many of great import, but still I hear people treat them as lesser, basing it on, “Yeah, but they can’t talk,” as if talking were the be all, end all of interaction. Many people have known the insightful awareness dogs can bring to their lives coupled with their generosity of spirit in serving as plebeians among us when in fact their awareness of the world around them exceeds ours by miles. And as for communication, I found out long ago that I was the weak link in that. Once I opened to the possibility that I could hold up my end of the “conversation,” it was amazing what crossed between my dogs and me.
One of my favorite books regarding this sort of communication, a book whose title I cannot remember to save my soul, was the true story of a California screenplay writer asked to babysit an actor friend’s German Shepherd for the summer, a dog trained in military, police and security work. The writer had never had a dog and had neither knowledge of nor interest in them. So on the first evening when this dog opened every closet door in his house by mouthing the doorknobs, then checked them out and pushed the doors closed with his paw, he wondered what he’d gotten himself into. Then each night in response to the slightest sound, the dog would launch himself off the bed, using the sleeping writer as a launch pad and often dislodging him from the bed, as he investigated every nuance of the night.
As so happens with writers, he hit a lull with his writing project, and since it was spring time in the hills where he lived, he longed to go hiking rather than sit at his desk. What brought his day-dream to a conscious level was when the dog showed up at his desk with the writer’s hiking boots in his mouth. Since he assumed dogs were more robotic than aware, he thought this was pure happenstance. Of course it wasn’t, and the story goes on to relate some rather spectacular experiences of communication between them, each one educating the writer finally to the point of acceptance and amazement with these four-legged partners who so willingly share our lives.
I was recently wading through vintage photos of dogs and owners, people of all ages and status. It didn’t matter whether they were decked out in finery or out in the fields, their dogs were in the photos with them. That’s what raised the question that became the title of this blog. And of course it is rhetorical. Dogs have allowed us to domesticate them to our needs and have been pulling for us ever since.
There is one book whose title I’ll never forget which you dog lovers out there will surely enjoy, Another Place Another Time by Bert Carson. The book has three different and compelling dog stories that run through it. And it’s not my bias that has me suggest it as a touching and clever read, but rather that I know a fine story when I've read one. See what you think.
In the meantime, keep your dogs close, and you’ll always find your way home.