Dogs Aren’t Human, Thank Goodness…

Yesterday the little guy and I got to go out just us. “Just us” was a promise when I was a kid that meant my little brother wasn’t going along wherever it was we were going. “C’mon little guy. Let’s go. Bear won’t come, if I know her.”

And I know her. Teddy was effervescent, rapturous, overjoyed to be going out “just us.”

It was overcast and warm. Soon after we got out of the car, I heard Sandhill Cranes. They’re returning. The larger pond had geese. In just the couple of days since I was there last, and the San Juans had small patches of gold where the aspen had turned. Nature is such a precise clock. Just at the moment the sun is at a certain point in relation to our latitude all this happens. Temperature is irrelevant. I know humans have noted this since forever, but it still amazes me, surprises me.

A friend who loves dogs is writing a dog book. Someone took gentle issue with her referring to her dogs as “girls” and “boys,” calling it anthropomorphization. I get that. I’ve heard it my relationship to my dogs, and I even get mildly irked by some things some people do with their animals — like dressing them up in human clothes. A dog is a dog is a dog, right? Yeah, but…

Between the human and the dog is something else. I’ve thought about that, too. Long ago my mom told me my dogs were child replacements. They never were and aren’t. Because she wanted children so much, I guess she assumed every woman would feel the same way even her recalcitrant daughter who didn’t want (and ultimately couldn’t have) children. “No they’re not, mom. They’re dogs.”

“But do you need to have so many? You’re just lonely and feel empty because you don’t have a family.”

I wasn’t lonely and I didn’t feel empty. The dogs were allies, friends, accomplices. They liked to do what I liked to do, and, after hours in the classroom and teachers’ meetings, coming home to friendly, sympathetic NON-human beings who didn’t talk and wanted to take a hike? What could be better! As for companionship? They’re not called “companion animals” for any other reason than that they are companion animals.

A lot of people walk their dogs past my house to the park two blocks away. There’s a man who walks his Yorkie past my house to the park. Yorkies are tiny little beasties with big brains and hearts. That dog is 100% pure dog to this man, his friend and ally. The dog is the man’s reason or excuse to get away from home, from routine, and walk around the park. Both of them were obviously happy being together. A young woman — a nurse — runs with her Labrador a couple times a week. The dog is filled with energetic joy, a lot more than the woman is, the dog is duty, which doesn’t mean the woman doesn’t love him, she does, but they are not partners. Another woman, who volunteers at the rescue, and who alerted me to Teddy needing a person, walks her son’s Airedale (a rescue) who ended up with her and whatever other dog she might be fostering. She walks them out at the cemetery so they have peace and some privacy from unleashed dogs. Her dogs are both duty and love, but the walk is meditation, an excuse (and a way) to find solitude.

Every human/dog relationship is unique, and the relationships between humans and their dogs vary as much as the humans and the dogs. For me? For one, they are freedom. A woman hiking alone is vulnerable. A woman hiking with a couple of big dogs is free. I love nature, but I know that my ability to perceive my surroundings is limited by my busy brain, my expectations, my limited senses. My dogs expand my senses and, over the years, have taught me a lot about being out there. Never mind the effervescence of their rapture when they realized we were going to be “running up that hill.”

They are also social magic. My dogs are/have all been beautiful and friendly; people want to meet them. All the times Bear has met a child, and the child has melted in wonderment at Bear’s mythical beauty and gentleness? Imagine being a 3 year old girl, filled with fairy tales, looking into Bear’s blue eyes? Bear will let them kiss her — and they do. I wouldn’t miss that for anything. Or the time the 6th graders up in the Laguna Mountains (6th grade camp) met Jasmine, my black and white husky? One little girl said in an amazed voice, “It’s Balto!!” Or coming home to my Aunt Jo’s house in Billings, and finding Uncle Hank sleeping on the living room floor, back-to-back, with my big husky male, Cody? The little kids up the alley used to put snow in their freezer for Bear to have in the summer. Watching the eyes of a depressed friend change to joy when Teddy climbs up on his lap and gives him kisses? Visiting my Aunt Martha in Denver when she had a cat. I had brought Molly, my Malamute/Aussie. My aunt and I went out, a little worried about leaving the dog and cat together. When we came home? Amiga, the cat, was lying on my bed with one leg and paw hanging over the bed, touching Molly who was sleeping on the floor beside her. One of my Aunt Martha’s last memories — and as she had dementia it was kind of important — was of a little white dog who came to visit the nursing home.

I tend to think that anthropomorphizing dogs might be a grave insult to the species. But calling them “boys” and “girls”? No. That explains the relationship and identifies their gender. What kind of person calls their dog, “it”?

24 thoughts on “Dogs Aren’t Human, Thank Goodness…

  1. There is something sacred in the human-animal bond. It is unique for each and yet there is a similarity in the strength and tenacity exhibited… I have to agree wholeheartedly!!! ❤ ❤

    • 🐾❤️ The only better friend I’ve had in my life was a horse. Humans are wonderful, but you have to TALK to them and then they might not understand and on and on and on and on and they hardly ever want to go hiking. Very mysterious beings, humans.

  2. Love this, Martha! You nailed it, every aspect of the human-dog relationship. The dogs I’ve been privileged to know and live with have been the best companions possible. Their presence has opened up the wilderness to me, allowed me to see and hear (and occasionally, smell) things I would otherwise have missed, all while keeping me safe with their alertness. And then there’s the “visual intimidation” factor, especially in the case of my Malamutes, keeping bad actors away. All without even having to bark 🙂

  3. Yes, they are freedom! I always have a Heeler as my security system and a Beagle as a siren and comic relief. As one who has always lived alone, my dogs are also grounding. We take care of each other in our own ways.

      • Beautiful. I have always felt we are kindred spirits. When I was 4, I announced I was not having babies, I was having puppies and horses. I never changed my mind. Because of living conditions, I have kept it to two at a time. I had one like your Big Puppy. It is hard to admit when one is a danger to all. I get my Heelers as puppies and my Beagles as rescues. When I get to live on the farm for more than weekends, I want two Beagle pups.

        • I love horses though I’ve only really KNOWN one. THAT was the purest love I’ve experienced in my life and the clearest communication. It was amazing. He was my neighbor’s horse, an old pinto quarter horse. Part of his pen was my fence. I woke up one morning, and there was, essentially, a horse in my yard. It was like a dream. That horse made a herd out of two of my dogs (and me). He was friendly and had a very good sense of humor. One day his person was bent down cleaning out his hooves. Brownie looked at me, gently tossed his head, and with his nose knocked off his person’s cowboy hat. Then he looked back at me. The day his kids got to ride him for the first time, and he came out, he walked right up to me and laid his nose on my chest. It’s a long story and no big deal to someone who’s lived with horses, but for me? All of it was magic.

          I’ve since known a few other horses and because of him my approach to them is very different. They’ve been around me all my life, but I never really got to know one before. You’re very fortunate.

          Big Puppy — such a sad unbelievable story. I’m sorry you had to deal with that, too. I really wished with that dog that she could talk. 😦

          • I love this! My old boy was always indifferent to affection, but the times when he nuzzles me or puts the crook of his neck over my shoulder shows me his truth. Every creature wants love and to be loved.

            My Big Puppy was Riva. I have learned the hard way and been reminded that not every horse or dog can be saved. Just like with some people, sometimes there is a screw loose and it cannot be fixed.

            • Yep. When Brownie first arrived at my neighbor’s house, he looked around for the beings who were always there and found Dusty and Lily. Seeing that bond grow was beautiful. Long after we had all gone our separate ways, if Dusty T. Dog heard a horse nicker from a passing livestock trailer he was happy and invariably ran out to see Brownie. And you’re right. Not every being can be saved. I couldn’t save my bro.

  4. A beautiful post Martha and such lovely photographs. The bond between dogs and us and the way they connect with others who just need it at that time is something that transcends all that we know. Sending love across the miles and please give sweet Bear and Teddy gentle pats from us all 💕🐕 xxx

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