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The Downward Dog

These days it must be great to be a dog. Ever since I became unemployed after spending 38 years of dedicated service to my former employer (no, I’m not bitter at all ). I have had ample time to take my dogs out for walks. In doing so, I noticed that a lot of other folks were doing the same thing which has resulted in a lot of very happy doggoes, who will probably not be very happy anymore when people are allowed to go back to work.

Now we have three great dogs, all rescue mutts. I prefer rescue dogs over the others for a couple of reasons. Number one is the obvious thing of giving a home to an animal that desperately needs one. Secondly, the situations that caused them to need rescuing, that shape their personalities, making them both unique and, well quirky. I dubbed the pack “ Los Tres Pero Locos” the three crazy dogs. First is Stitch “Hermano Mayor”, older brother, he is a Havanese, well mostly anyway, mixed breed. Stitch was abandoned by some douche bag and had to live on his own in the wild for two weeks before he was rescued by the A. S. P. C. A. Next is Corndog, Hermanito, little brother. He is a Jack Russell, maybe basset hound mix. I say that because of his rotund body and short legs. He came from a home that had a lot of dogs, most of them being badly mistreated. Third is Chilidog, Hermano Grande, big brother, he is a Labrador Shar-Pei mix. Chili has the softest most luxuriant fur I’ve ever felt. Which, unfortunately he sheds like nobody’s business. He found his way to the pound after escaping from the Tubbs fire a few years back. These guys are the best dogs in the world. Now I know everybody thinks that their dogs are the best and they’re not wrong, it’s just that I’m right!

So as my wife and I have been giving our pack their daily constitutionals, we have noticed a few things that some of the more recent to the cause dog owners are doing, that I feel need to be addressed so that everyone, can enjoy the time spent outside. This is not a beratement, just some helpful tips.

First, I know it may sound silly or redundant, but actually walk your dog(s). I have seen so many people who are out for a walk or a jog, and they have their dog in a stroller or some sort of cart. Unless your dog is physically unable to walk, let him or her do what they love to do. My pack goes “loco” every time it’s time to go out, and are easily capable of doing two to three miles, even the little guys, and it benefits both human and canine. Also don’t let your pet control the stroll. You are the leader of the pack, if you let them have their way, an hour long, three mile hike might end up taking all afternoon. Give them a break every ten minutes or so at YOUR discretion, after a while they will get the idea.

Secondly, another area of concern is when you are out on your walk and you run across someone else walking their dog or just walking by themselves in the opposite direction. Now I have to state for the record that I am in no way a trained expert in the ways of canines, I am only sharing what I have learned through many years of experience. What I have noticed is that my guys will react quite differently towards an oncoming dog or person, if I place them on my outside, instead of on my inside or out in front, then they are far less aggressive towards that other animal, or person. I don’t know exactly why this works. I have speculated that it has to do with the pack mentality. If a dog is out in front or on your inside, they feel like they are the leader of the pack, and therefore need to protect it. By placing them on your outside you are assuming the leadership, assuring them that you’ve got this under control. Like I said, this is only my theory, but I do know it works for the majority of times we encounter these situations. Always remember you are the leader of the pack.

Which leads into my third point. There is a reason for leash laws. When you are out on a public path or park where people are enjoying the fresh air, with or even without a dog, please, please keep your dog on their leash. If you want them to run free, fantastic, they love playing with other unleashed dogs in the right setting. That setting is either a dog park (the best choice) or, if you are just by yourself with your dog, an open field where you are absolutely sure there are no other people out with their pets. You might think that your dog is not a danger to anyone, that he or she is well trained and totally obedient. That if they are off their leash it isn’t going to be an issue. Let me relate an incident that happened last year that explains the problem with this. While out for our daily stroll a medium sized Staffordshire Terrier looking guy got lose from his owner, he spotted the pack and came running over to say hello. I saw him running towards us with his tail wagging, I’m sure he just wanted to introduce himself, sniff a little butt and maybe engage in some friendly play. The problem arose when my small guys saw him, a dog twice their size running full tilt towards them. They immediately went on the defensive. The terrier sensed this and changed his posture from wanting to play, to a “hey, what the hell is going on” attitude, and became aggressive. He started after Corndog. This caused Chili to defend his little brother, while Stitch chose the better part of valor and withdrew from the fracas. I saw that he had Corny by the neck, so I jumped on both of them to try and separate them, probably not the smartest thing to do as I was bitten on my knee, but in the heat of the moment I reacted as best I could. Finally, the dog’s owner arrived on the scene. It was actually only about a minute, as he got control of his dog, and my wife was able to restrain ours. The result however was not good, not only had I been bitten, but Corny wound up with his neck gashed, and he had to go to the emergency vet a. s. a. p. , where he received ten staples. By the way the vet care at Petsmart, which was the only place we could get him to right away, was great. Corndog was extremely fortunate the bite just missed his jugular. He has since fully recovered albeit with a couple of battle scars and a funny haircut where he had to have his neck shaved. The point is that you may have the best trained dog in the world, but you can’t assume that all the other dogs out there are as well trained as yours, most are not, and if you are unable to gain control over a situation where a dog’s natural aggression might take control, then only bad things can happen. We were fortunate that the dog’s owner was very apologetic and immediately offered to pay the vet bill for Corndog. Because of that, I felt it was unnecessary to call the police, even though I was well within my rights to do so. My wound did not require a visit to the E. R., so after my initial anger subsided, we talked it out and came up with a solution that was fair for everyone. The problem with calling the police, number one they might have to have the offending dog impounded, or depending on the situation, put down, and then the owner will receive a bill for the incident, and I can assure you it ain’t cheap. So please be respectful of your fellow dog owners and keep your beast on their leash. No, I’m not saying that dogs are beasts, it just rhymed, well sort of.

Lastly, my fourth point, and the reason for the title of this blog. During my sojourn in unemployment world, my wife has gotten me to incorporate some Yoga into my daily workout. I love it, it has finally given me a stretch routine, that I actually like. Anyway, my favorite posture is the “Downward Dog.” I really wish that people out walking their dogs would do the “Downward Dog” and pick up the dog crap! It seems like an obvious thing, I mean it smells, it’s bad for the environment, it can flow into nearby streams and creeks. Plus, who hasn’t had the misfortune of stepping on a pile, boy ain’t that a kick in the pants. Worse yet are the people who will bag the excrement, and then leave it on the side of the path, instead of carrying it the fifty feet or so to the nearest garbage can. I mean Really? You can’t carry a small plastic bag? So now the environment has that plastic bag to deal with along with the doggie doo. So, dog owners do the “Downward Dog” and clean up after Fido. It’s simply just the right thing to do, it’s good Karma, and the world will thank you for it, at least I know I will.

I'm a firm believer that dogs make for the best companions. Their loyalty, their innate ability to sense the moods of their owners, their playfulness, their unique and quirky personalities make a dog a welcome addition to any home. But that owner has to take on the responsibility of making sure your companion is taken care of properly. Dogs can’t feed themselves, they can’t walk themselves, and they certainly can’t pick up their own crap. They are instinctive, and unless a great deal of time is spent on training, will react instinctively to any given situation. That being said, if you don’t have the means or the motivation for that kind of training, that’s cool too, just remember that your dog depends on you for their wellbeing and it’s your responsibility to give them the best care you possibly can. In return you get the greatest gift of all, unconditional love! Thanks for reading and ROCK ON Y’ALL!

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