Live in the moment. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow doesn’t exist. Don’t fret about things that cannot be changed and don’t worry about the future. Your job is to beg for food at the dinner table.

Stop and smell the feces. My dogs never pass up a good pile of scat. You can learn a lot from scat. What kind of animal? Herbivore or predator? Small or large? How recently has it been thru? What is it eating? Do you know them?

You can also roll around in scat to improve your scent.

Rest and rehydrate more often than you think you need. All my dogs will hike with me until they decide it is time to rest. Then they crawl under the nearest shady shrub and won’t leave unless I really demand it. One we have rested and rehydrated and snacked we continue on. I discover how much better I feel and am thankful my dog told me it was break time. I might have otherwise gone on for another hour getting more and more dehydrated and drained of energy.

When confronted by danger, don’t attack, don’t make sudden moves and don’t run away. Back away slowly and warn your pack. This is exactly what my dogs do when they find a rattlesnake.

Cat food tastes better than dog food. So does cat poop.

Stick together. My Rex goes crazy if all the humans he is escorting aren’t within his circle of awareness (sight, sound, smell). He’ll run to the lagging person and encourage them to speed up. He is an exceptional nanny.

The best way to get acquainted with new friends and to greet old ones is the smell their anus and lick their genitals. (I don’t see this ever becoming popular with most humans.)

Relaxed awareness. Oftentimes my dogs will seem sound asleep and completely out of it. Fifty feet away a squirrel will run up a tree or a twig will snap or some scent will waft their way. Instantly they are up and alert, with full awareness of the situation and ready for action. Even though none of my senses are as sharp, I am trying to develop the same trait in myself. It is an extremely valuable skill for monotonous business meetings and boring classes.

Your neighbors are often your best early warning system. Sometimes the neighbor’s dogs will have a regular bark fest. Mine ignore them. Then some other time there will be just a couple soft barks and mine will be on instant alert, nostrils flaring, ears pricked up, hackles raised. I have to learn to speak better dog.

Dogs have no concept of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, economic class. Couldn’t care less what color or size or patterns their packmates are. Introduce them properly and they don’t even care what species. So far advanced beyond humans in this – and we can’t seem to learn the obvious.

If your dog is abnormally nervous, maybe you should be too. One time the family was camping in Sequoia NP, late in the season. Had the camp to ourselves. Amber, our dog at the time, started getting really really nervous and wanted to go. Silly us, we ignored her and made her be quiet. That evening a bear broke into our van. Stupid humans, she warned us!

You may be lost, but your dog probably isn’t. Went off-trail for miles through the backcountry. Told dog it was time to go home. Followed the dog right back to the car, using the same zig-zagging, looping, wading thru streams route I’d gone to try to confuse it. Occasionally I’ll be following some faint trace and come to a place where I can’t find the trail anymore. My dog always finds it for me. Works in the winter too.

If you don’t want to be seen, don’t move. Even my orange and white Brittany can be almost invisible. All he has to do is find some dappled light to lay motionless in. Critters who key on motion never see him. Even a person who keys on color and shape won’t notice him unless they are intentionally looking for something.

The most interesting things on the trail are off the trail. My dogs do 3 miles for every one I do.

The best things in life are tummy rubs, ear scratches, fetching things and sharing bits of jerky and cheese with the big guy. Chasing quail, squirrels, and lizards is also fun. The proper way to show affection is to slobber all over its object and display vigorous tail wagging.

Nothing breaks the ice with a stranger on the trail like a well-behaved dog. Meeting groups of children on the trail, all of whom simply have to pet and cuddle your dog, is pretty cool too. They are also useful for meeting women.

My dogs are like family to me. I grieve when I lose one. I am as happy to see them when I get home as they are to see me. Each has its own personality and each approaches being a dog a little differently. Of all the dogs I’ve owned, there was only one where I had to assert my alpha status to. (Repeatedly, for her entire life. Very stubborn, willful and intelligent.) The others just accept it because I am bigger than them and I’ve been around since they were puppies. But even the one I had to argue with never questioned her place with my children. I guess she realized that no matter what your status in the pack, the puppies always came first.

That’s a lesson too many humans have long forgotten. The puppies come first.

One thought on “Things my dogs have taught me.

  1. I had a male Siberian husky named Cody. He was a rescue from somewhat dire circumstances. He was a prince among dogs, very large and beautiful. He (in his mind) married me. We went on a road trip from Descanso, CA to Colorado Springs to see friends and then on up to Montana to see family. It was wonderful traveling with him because he was an excellent guest, everyone was attracted to him and he had a certain Gary Cooperish quiet charm. We arrived at my aunt and uncles’ about 1 pm and they were astonished at Cody.

    “He’s big!”
    “Yeah.”
    “He’s so calm.”
    “Yeah.” He was lying equidistant between each of us on the back patio.
    “Is he always like this?”
    “Unless there’s some reason not to be.” He appeared asleep.

    Just then the biggest red squirrel I’ve ever seen came over my aunt’s back fence. Cody was UP and bent on a deadly intersection. In a last gasp of hope, the squirrel took flight toward the front fence and escape. Cody leapt into the air, and caught the squirrel. Like any good dog, he brought to me. I had to kill it. Cody went back to “sleep.” My aunt and I took it somewhere some hungrier predators could find it.

    Liked by 1 person

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