Monday, February 15, 2016

Studying Dogs

Another year of studying dogs is beginning to be more interesting than ever; that’s dogs for you. In my years living with a dozen or more Rottweilers and/or Bullmastiffs in a fenced ten acre compound I saw them co-operate, communicate in various ways.
I wish humans were intelligent enough to speak dog, the way they understand us; most of all I wish I could speak dog.
My big guard dogs did a perimeter patrol when the spirit moved them, but they went to dog shows, school fairs, nursing homes, so we had activities. They worked as a team when cornering wildlife in our yard. A family of coyotes lived just the other side of the fence. My pure bred, Champion stock stayed near the house, but heaven help anything that strayed in too close; in short they were not obsessed with interlopers.
Here in Puerto Rico, the stray dogs, having been accepted by a household, become very possessive. There is a network of trails in the woods. Remember tracking wildlife when you were a few years younger? We don’t have wildlife; we have farm animals, rodents, mongoose, and various size lizards. Dogs and cats are sort of wildlife.

Pet dogs have puppies, survivors get a free one way trip to a better part of the island, where they get their asses kicked by dogs already living there or beaten off by a man driving them away with a stick. Dogs wander through the woods in search of a meal and safety.

The Sato Hill Crewe patrols the woods like the devil will sneak in to steal their last sandwich. Now, that our baby Border Collie is patrolling I’m seeing the more subtle cues these dogs send. 
This was written before Dominic went missing. His obsessive personality raised the level of perimeter protection; I learned much about my group’s communication while he lived here.
There has been a recent cull; neighbors from down the hill told me about ten dogs that were poisoned and another stolen from a yard. Perhaps that’s why there’s less activity in the woods.  
Life with dogs in Puerto Rico gives me a very different vantage point of our relationship with dogs. In Illinois I always saw dogs as belonging to someone or in need of rescue; here I see dogs visiting people who feed them, but belong to no one.
Because of the density of the dog population where I live, threat warnings have become ritualized with an obligatory howl to sum it up. Dogs are dumped regularly, the survivors learn from the old timers in the neighborhood. The traits and survival strategies a dog must have in order to live on the street are easily observed. In  a maybe not so odd evolutionary twist small and cute does well; some woman will take small and cute in over night! Smile.

Dogs fascinate me as much today as they did almost a hundred years ago. 

No comments:

Post a Comment