Why do we own dogs?
I often wonder what drives a human to want a dog. After 20 years of working in this field, sometimes this question still burns in my mind. Is it the companionship these beautiful and forgiving creatures give us or is it just for social status?
I like to think that it is for the companionship, mainly because I try to keep in my mind, that all people have a good soul. After all, humans are a nurturing species that instinctively have a burning need to care for all that is weak and vulnerable. We boast about how we are the more intelligent species, the most rational. Yes, I think for the majority of dog owners out there, it is the thought that this one creature will be waiting happily for you, even if you did something horrible a few hours ago. This unknowingly loving creature will always look to you and wag that whip like tail at just the sight of you. It doesn’t matter if you scolded them that morning for leaving you a present on the floor; they forgive you and are blissfully happy that you are back home. They hold no grudges for your outburst of anger that they redecorated your kitchen with leftovers and tin foil. They still show you affection even if you push them away because you had a bad day.
I sit back and look at my pack members and rescue dogs everyday. I wonder how they can be so forgiving after the lives they had. I mean seriously, if we as humans went through what they went through, we would most likely be sending our therapist’s child through some Ivy League college. Just look at my Staffie, Axel. This amazing creature lived in a run for a good portion of his life, coming out occasionally to play with the volunteers at a rescue group, never really having a consistent owner, until now. The first time he came to me he was like a freight train of energy. He had been so pent up he literally could not sit still for more then 1.5 seconds. We joked because his leg muscles were so well defined, that he looked like a Staffie on steroids; but really the reason for it was incredibly sad. He would race back and forth in his little run, jump up and down like a pogo stick just to keep his mind busy. So I wonder, what would I be like if I was stuck in a run for 2 years with only an occasional outing for play with another human? Would I be so quick to accept another human as a companion?
Axel’s experience with people had been his daily caretakers that fed him and let him into his outdoor pen. Even though he never had a constant human companion, he greets me everyday with a play bow and a body so full of happiness that he looks like he will explode out of his fur. How can he be this excited to see me? He did not grow up with humans loving him and caring for him like a furry child, he was not conditioned for this. But alas, he is a dog, a forgiving and loving creature we as humans take for granted everyday.
Then there is Tyson, a recently rescued staffie. When I was asked to take him on through a local bull breed advocacy group Love-a-Bull, I had my doubts that this magnificent animal would ever be able to bond with a human. He and his sister had been chained outside with no human interaction for 4 years with an occasional bowl of food tossed to them. The heroes at Love-a-Bull rescued him and brought him to me in hopes that we could help him become a better canine citizen. This is a dog that had no reason to even look at humans unless it was to protect his territory. He never knew what a gentle touch felt like; he never experienced the soft praise a caring human could speak to reward him for just being there. No, his life was spent in the backyard, attached to a truck chain, as an object of social status. His life was selfishly used as a trophy for humans, looking big and bad so a human could brag his dog was tougher than the other neighborhood dogs. Why would this dog trust any human? How can I expect him to not stiffen up when I try to pet him, he never felt a loving touch before. How can I be surprised that he cannot give me accepting eye contact for my soft praise, has he ever had a human just lovingly talk to him? Why should he care if he pleases any human or me? Honestly, no human ever gave a crap about him, why should he even give me the time of day.
With all this in my mind, I spent the first couple of days secretly wondering how I could tell the rescue group that for the first time in my career, I have failed. I was certain I would never be able to show this dog that not all humans were harsh, greedy creatures looking to use him as a substitute for their own lacking strengths. Would I believe that? Would you? It had taken four years for any human to step up and even care enough to take the weight of that chain off his neck. It took four years for him to feel what it was to run around and actually play with his sister. I would be foolish to think I can change him in a short time, if I could at all.
Then came day three of being in my care. I approached his kennel (more of a safe built for dogs, being he has never been crated before) and asked him to wait while I put his collar on. This for the past couple of days was a very long process of waiting longer than your average human has the patience to wait. He immediately sat down and waited patiently for me to place the collar on him. As shocked as I was and as badly as I had wanted to do a joyful little dance right there, I contained myself and kept my calm demeanor. As I slipped the collar on, he leaned forward and put his enormous muzzle in my face. Now this is a strange situation I placed myself in, I never leave myself unprotected. I make it a point to constantly preach to my daughter to never place yourself in a dangerous or vulnerable position when working with our rehab cases. Yet here I am, literally face to face with a dog that has no reason to not bite the person that has been controlling him for the last couple of days. But this morning, I was the student.
With his nose at my chin, he was slowly taking in short little sniffs. I was hoping I didn’t smell like breakfast. Then he very gently gave me a little kiss to the chin. In my mind I took it as a thank you. I thanked him back softly and gave him a big facial massage. He leaned into it with such force that I was nearly taken off balance. This literally brought tears to my eyes. The fact that this poorly treated dog that lived as confined as he had, could show affection to a human in such a short time absolutely amazed me. Seventy-two hours of having shelter, food, and kindness made four years of neglect truly a thing of the past.
Yes, that must be it. We love to have a dog because they are so forgiving and full of love.
For more information on how you can adopt Tyson and give him the same love and respect he will give you, please email firstname.lastname@example.org