Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Dog Update

not looking terribly wolf-like here

Interesting read this morning: Stop Coddling Your Dog -- He's 99.9% Wolf

Since the bulk of June was spent trying to work with a dog who did not want to fit into our pack peaceably, I've sort of been quiet on the outcome of Khaleesi, and to be honest, we still do not have a determined conclusion.

When Khaleesi came into our home, she was a perfect dog, provided she was the only dog. As soon as Katy and Evan were anywhere around, she would not stop barking and attacked Katy on a couple of occasions when she could work her way around the barriers we'd ended up living behind to keep them separated. We had a dog trainer come in and give us training exercises, but the crux of the matter was all three of us had to be here consistently to each have one dog on a leash. It's summer, Bob works, and that left me at home, frustrated beyond all reason at the gates and barking and time I had to spend choosing between who would get my company and who would be left alone.

It wasn't working.

While Khaleesi was in our home, Evan had taken to cowering in corners and having to be coaxed downstairs and outside, even when she was closed up with Sam in the basement or kenneled (and always barking). Katy, deaf and partially blind and the prime recipient of Khaleesi's outrage, was going the other direction some days, getting jumpier and anxious.

After three weeks and going out of my mind from the stress, I put a note on our neighborhood's internet message board and by the next day, had a neighbor interested in meeting her. He'd lost his long term dog a few years back, lived alone and worked from home, and was thinking about getting a new dog to keep him company. He took her home that evening for a try-out sleepover and she hasn't returned.

By all reports, they were an instant match. But he hasn't committed to keeping her permanently, although she's been there now longer than she's lived with us. I worry that, should he decide to return her, that she will once again be abandoned by her "people" in the course of her short life. But I cannot deny how peaceful and harmonious the house is now that we've returned to two bonded dogs. (Let's leave the cats out of the "peaceful" equation or it'll all fall apart.)

With that in mind, in the article linked above, this idea stuck out:

"A dog’s pack, or family, is a unique interspecies group that must include people and may include other dogs. And a dog’s first instinct—unlike a wolf’s—is to look to the people for leadership. Only when it does not find that, either because its human is too abusive, affectionate, or unstable, does it start to behave more like a captive wolf with no family—aggressively questing for dominance, out of insecurity more than anything else."

I don't know. Which was I? Too abusive, affectionate, or unstable to provide leadership? And why only to her, and not to my other dogs, who easily fell in with one another, and all our prior dogs, who we've never had an issue integrating?

Perhaps it's too much human projection, but Khaleesi may just have been outside our range of patience. I don't know. She's much happier and well-adjusted as an only-dog. I hope it can stay that way, not just for her, but for her new leader.

Of the vital function that dogs perform, Eckhart Tolle says:

They keep millions of people sane. They have become guardians of being.

Tolle is a spiritualist, but his observation is more than mystical. It is supported by science. The findings are not as simple as dogs improving human life. It depends on the dog, and most of all, it depends on you. But for all the proof that dogs need humans, a fairly consistent body of research does show benefits of the reverse. People with dogs feel more relaxed, less lonely, exercise more, and are even less likely to have infants with allergies. Some of the biggest impacts of dog ownership are felt by two types of people in particular: women and single men. A single man with a dog is much less likely to suffer from depression than a single man without one.

In the meantime, we are back to our normal, hoping it will stay that way.


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