Friday, July 20, 2012

The Dogs of Grand Bahama Island Make Me Think Too Much

You guys already know I have a hard time relaxing, but you know who doesn't?

This dog we saw walking along the beach when we got to the wedding reception:

Not that he is walking in this pic. Nope--he's chillin' out on the beach.
Legs splayed back and everything. He was so super cute.
Yes, doggie, that is a beautiful sunset you're about to witness.

You may be a little confused about those pictures, because of the big blue thing at the bottom of them, under the sand.

It's nothing weird though. It's just this here infinity pool that looked out over the beach:

Getting back to the doggie...

He seemed very calm and unaffected by anything going on around him. I mean, he was alert, to be sure, but not like some other dog we know...

We watched him for a while. He walked around and tried to get comfortable in a couple spots before settling down. Joey saw a couple walk past the dog and try to get him to approach them, but the dog didn't seem to care about them.

We kept wondering what this dog's deal was. Did he have a house? A family? Was he hungry? Was he safe? Where was he going to sleep?

We thought about going down to the beach to get a closer look and joked about bringing him food or having him join us at the wedding. If it made any sense at all for me to pack him up into my suitcase and bring him home, that would have been awesome. The dog didn't seem to mind his lot in life; I couldn't help but worry about him. (And be jealous of his ability to relax at the beach!)

I kept thinking about the dog after the wedding. And then we saw him again the next day, in another part of town. Just walking along a main road, like nothing was going on. The cab driver we made friends with filled us in on the fact that this dog is a neighborhood dog. He lives wherever. People feed him. He walks around. Simple as that.

No one, dog or human, seems to mind the arrangement.

That didn't make me worry any less about the pup. When Joey and I went to dinner on our last night there, we stashed some bread just in case we ran into the dog (yes, I realize that bread isn't the best option to feed a dog, but it's the easiest thing to haul around). But why was I so worried? Because I'm a crazy dog lady or because I'm a crazy dog lady from a big city? Is this an American thing? Or maybe it's just me specifically.

We saw various little villages while we were down there, and in each village we saw dogs--all looking very similar to the beach dog--that were kind of hanging around outside. No collars. No leashes. And no reactions whatsoever to us passing by. No barking. Just being chilled-out dogs. Some of the dogs appeared to belong to the households they were closest to and with others it was harder to tell.

That's the kind of thing I just don't see at home, and I'm not sure how far I'd have to travel from my house to find it. Meanwhile, it's probably much closer than I realize. It makes me wonder if we're not doing it wrong.

I bet those dogs have never had a day of obedience or manners training in their lives--but they're better behaved than Desmond. I doubt any of them need behavior modification. Then again, would they if they were brought here, into a different lifestyle with a different set of expectations?

When I was a kid, my grandparents had a house in East Branch, NY. This is a small, country village (population: 492). No one had a fenced-in property, but everyone had a tractor. The roads were not necessarily paved.

My grandparents' property consisted of a huge orchard and field. On the other side of it was a house where a gorgeous yellow lab named Lucy lived. She would randomly come around to the house or through the field, and we became friends this way.

After that, I could stand at the front of the orchard and yell out her name, and a few moments later, she would be busting through the shrubs between the two properties and galloping toward me. It was a long way, so I'd run out and meet her, and she thought it was the greatest thing ever, this exuberant greeting. She is to this day the sweetest dog I've ever known.

How much training do you think she had?

Lucy was trusted by everyone in the community--and she seemed to trust everyone right back. Her recall was perfect, even if it sometimes took her a minute to get to you or find you. She always responded, even if she were frolicking in the stream or sniffing something amazing in the woods. I cannot even get Desmond to come in from the damn yard half the time.

I could be making too much out of this, but all of these dogs really got me thinking about things, the expectations we push onto our pets.

Part of training is about what really matters for your lifestyle, and I think it's easy to forget that and to want them to be perfect. Not every dog has to pass the CGC test, and I would even venture so far as to say that you could live with simply managing a reactive dog if your location and lifestyle allowed such a thing (and it wasn't too much of a hardship on the dog, emotionally).

Here's what I mean:

If you don't care that your dog begs for food during dinner because 
you think it's cute, then that's your choice and your arm getting nudged 
by a wet nose every night. Your dinner guests may not like it, but 
maybe you don't care about that either. It's up to you. 

Have a teacup poodle that jumps during greetings? 
Maybe you'd rather work on her drop-its or her stays, because a 
single-digit-weight dog jumping on you is barely noticeable. 

Do you care more about a dog who can sit nicely at outdoor cafes than you do about anything else? Work on that. (Of course, a dog's mental and physical comfort zone is important, too. But that's not what I'm trying to get into here.)

It's always good to reassess what you want your dog to do versus what you need your dog to do--and to remember that letting dogs be dogs sometimes can go a long way.

Deep thoughts with Lauren & Desmond... (oh, please, like he contributed anything)

* * *

I'll end this longer-than-I-expected-it-to-be post on a lighter note.

I feel like no one will mind if I include some pix of this awesome bird we saw while walking through Lucayan National Park. He kept coming over to see if we had any crackers (folks are allowed to feed the wildlife, and there's usually a woman selling crackers). Alas, we did not. Poor birdie.

* * *

And just when you thought you had really reached the end...

Now, on a totally unrelated note, I just wanted to post a small follow-up to my leptospirosis post. I responded to comments but wanted to make sure I got this bit out there to everyone, so here goes:

We have been very lucky that Desmond hasn't had a bad reaction to a vaccine--and he's had many shots. We're especially lucky because he has gotten many of them all at the same time. We didn't know any better and thought it would be best to take as few trips to the vet as possible, because Desmond doesn't like it there and we are crazy busy.

When we asked about doing it this way, our vet was all for it.

When we went to our new vet and he looked at Desmond's records, he was not OK with the way the vaccines were done or how many Des was getting or how often Des was getting them. He promised us things would be different with him. I felt like a big ol' dummy but was glad we finally got ourselves over to this new vet, because I think I'd like to keep him.

I do have an update on Desmond's anxiety/vomit situation, but it's taking me a long time to write and I was waiting for some test results. I will post it eventually!
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