Thursday, March 4, 2010
Back to the roots.
Could you still love an animal if you could never cuddle it?
This youngster's picture was taken on his "tutoring" day when he was about seven months old. He's a magnificent animal, already quite large for a 7 month-old, with long legs and huge feet. Unlike many dogs that are touted to be part-wolf (very popular claim in this neck of the woods), he actually is part-wolf. I do not know what he sounds like because he never barked or howled. In the exam room he would spread out on the table and settle into a nap while I was doing my thing. He reacted to nothing - not to temperature-taking, not to vaccines. In his kennel he spread out and settled into a nap. After his neuter he woke up, sat up, and settled into a nap. He took every opportunity to save energy. He did not address himself to anyone, complain about anything, or call any attention to himself. In fact he acted as if none of us was present, as if there was nothing to be expected from us. This dignity and calm acceptance were fascinating in such a young animal in strange surroundings. Many people would not want a pup like this, or the dog he would grow to be. He interacts with his family and accepts affection but does not return it in any obvious way, and nips quite hard with his incisors when he plays. (He did not attend enough of our puppy classes to learn bite inhibition :-) He digs up the ground as if it were a construction site. Fortunately for everyone he lives on an acreage. In him I had the honour of observing the birth of the dog - not yet dog as we know it, but already not quite wolf.
I caught myself wishing more dogs were like this; I've met a few such dogs, each very memorable. Very loyal yet somehow less dependent on humans, less apt to look with unconditional faith into our eyes (kudos to those who really feel they deserve such faith), less like the perpetual puppies we have bred them to be, more capable of playing all by themselves with no one watching. More likely to tell us if and when we're full of shit, and incapable of putting up with it. Cats seem to have retained this primitive independence (mistaken for haughtiness by people who take things personally) and that's one answer to why I'm more comfortable around them both as a person and as a veterinarian.