if you can always find contentment just where you are: you are probably a dog.~ Jack Kornf
Perched on the edge of an up and coming busy Fall season of family events, social functions, and traveling to trials, I stopped for a moment to contemplate life's many good times. Winnie is in her 5th year of life, her prime. She is confident, well mannered, dependable. We fit together well and her intuitiveness is admirable. We can take her anywhere and she adjusts, behaves and presents her best self. We can also leave her in the care of trusted friends and family and she maintains composure, has no doubt when we say "we'll be right back" we mean it. Winnie will wait patiently wether she's in the crate in the car at a trial, at home or at a familiar house. There is no big drama scene of protest, since Winnie seems to have no concept of time but rather exists in the here and now. Tho Winnie experiences our absence, she feels no effect from the duration of passing time. Dogs don't seem to keep track of time, like "Ok, they've been gone for 5min. If someone doesn't come back in the next minute, I will begin to panic." Winnie doesn't look at her wrist and say, "Last time she left me she was gone two hours. Let me set my watch."
I had a dog, Tawny, a Shepherd-Pit mix who couldn't be alone, period. Tawny's panic was immediate and intense. It wasn't like we could leave her for ten minutes before she'd start to tear apart the place. And leaving her for a longer period of time only meant she had more time to destroy her environment and harm herself. In the 9 short years she lived, Tawny was left alone a handful of times when all options were exhausted. One time she ate the deck in the backyard, another time she broke her ribs shimmying thru a 5 inch space (Tawny was a 55lb dog) between the concrete kennel floor and the two by four board that provided the frame for the chain-link fence. The third time was when we left Tawny and her pack mate, Jake, a sweet, smart border collie, at a boarding facility so we all could be at a weekend, out of town family wedding. I explained Tawny's affliction to the proprietors and left a $50. deposit for any damage she might do. Luckily, Tawny had no aggressive behaviors towards people, oh and needless to say I did not get back the deposit. Tawny did a fair amount of damage to the place but no harm came to her, or any one else for that matter.
We tried crating Tawny but she made a joke of the collapsible wire cage, and bent it into a mis-shapened mess and snapped the wires like twigs to make an escape. The final time Tawny was left alone because there was no other option, we secured her in an aluminum military crate given to us by my Uncle Jerry who had served in the Air Force. Tho only a 45min span of time elapsed between when my daughter put Tawny in the crate and left and I returned home, Tawny emerged from the crate covered in saliva and blood from her mouth. She had sliver teeth from biting at the aluminum grate on the door of the crate, abrasions on her gums and a puncture wound on her tongue.
For the rest of Tawny's life, we never left her alone. Even if there was a family event, if she couldn't go, one of us had to stay home. This was 20 years ago and dogs were not as accepted in most public venues like they are today. There were plenty of times we arrived someplace to the negative reception of many disapproving eyes. We ignored the judgment and sideways looks, and never made a scene if asked to leave. We never took Tawny into environments that weren't appropriate, I never expected anyone to allow our dog if it wasn't acceptable to all. We always had a plan B, the contingency plan. A challenging way to live became an accepted way of life.
Now, of the kinds of places I frequent, there are very few where dogs are not allowed. Dog-friendly is now a category in describing public events and establishments. It's funny how when deciding to go, I rarely think about the appropriateness in relation to the public and how they are affected by my dog but rather, is it someplace Winnie will be comfortable? If I take Winnie to dinner, do they have a dog-friendly patio? If we go to a car show, is it on pavement? Will there be loud engines?
Last night we went to an outdoor "drive-in" movie with an air filled structure for the pop-up screen. It was a showing of American Graffiti by the Alexander Valley Film Society in conjunction with the Annual Car and Motorcycle show at the Cloverdale Citrus Fairgrounds. My cousin, whose beautifully restored '67 Oldsmobile Cutlass convertible we were traveling in, had no problem with Winnie coming along. The venue, an outdoor parking lot, wasn't inappropriate for dogs, there were three or four dogs in attendance with no one to judge or bat an eye. But was it going to be a fun time for Winnie? Sitting around while we ate dinner? Parked in a dark parking lot with loud music and later the movie playing? I was glad when Winnie's Auntie Barb and Uncle Steve offered to have her for the evening. Winnie could stay behind. I didn't hesitate to make the call, tho I always want to have my dog with me, yes, Winnie would be much happier with her "cousins" Daisy, a quiet Shepherd-mix, and Fritzl, a bodacious Dachshund.
So as we continue thru this busy time of year, we enjoy many fun events with and without Winnie. We dropped Winnie off last night and as we left, I could hear the howling, not from distress, no. As is the tradition at Casa Trombley, the pack all engage in a unifying howl session together, humans and canines, after which Winnie's apprehension, if there even was any, is dispensed. Wether it's a two hour stay or multi nights, our poised and grown-up little Winnie integrates and adjusts with grace.
There are so many things I have to be grateful for, do I spend enough time being thankful? Probably not, I am not spending time in Church actively giving thanks, but oh, how I love when the wash of contentment filters thru my brain, heart and soul. The feeling is so welcomed and as I revel in it, I then become overwhelmed with gratitude that I recognize it. Happiness is what I wish for for one and all.