Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dog story

As some of you know, my dog, Hunter J. Marcus, is eleven years old today. As a present, and a tribute, I gave him a Facebook page. Rin Tin Tin and Lassie have FB Pages, so why not Hunter? Hunter's page is more fun. Hunter is more fun.

In a way, it seems strange to refer to Hunter as my dog, as if I own him -- like _my_ iPad. Hunter is a live being capable of independent thought (sometimes too independent), and not a possession. However, since I speak of "my wife" or "my friend," Hunter is "my dog." Actually he is "our" dog because Marilyn and I share the joy and the work. However, as part of my deal with Marilyn, only I pick up Hunter's poop.

Hunter is much more of a friend/relative/housemate than a possession. Just as I don't believe in racism, sexism or ageism, I don't believe in speciesism. All mammals have full rights and privileges in our home. If Hunter wants to nap on a couch -- or on the kitchen table -- that's his right. 

Hunter is a "rescue dog," but not in the normal sense. He originally belonged to neighbors. They bought him in an effort to improve a bad marriage. They also had more kids to improve the marriage. Ultimately the marriage fell apart. The wife got the kids. We got Hunter. We got the better deal because one of the kids was not nice.

Hunter is a golden retriever. Retrievers are very gregarious. They need interaction with other intelligent life forms. Sadly, the neighbors kept him in a cage in their basement -- a miserable existence for any dog -- especially a retriever. (Golden retrievers and labrador retrievers have similar personalities and both love being cold and wet. Goldens have longer fur.)

I worked from home at the time (early 2002) and started borrowing Hunter for longer and longer periods each day. 

My wife had never lived with a dog, but had gotten to like Hunter, and was willing to go along with the 'rescue,' provided I agreed to clean up the crap. I had always liked dogs, and since the places where Marilyn and I had lived previously were not dog-friendly, I never seriously considered getting one. Hunter was my dream-come-true.

I don’t often dwell on my lack of human children. Marilyn and I tried to reproduce, but we didn’t; and adopting seemed like too much of a gamble. Hunter, however, was adopted, and he’s just fine. If I had to be a dog, I’d like to be like him. But I’d want parents like us, to spoil me.

Hunter has proper AKC papers. The neighbors had paid $1,000, but he'd be ours for just the price of food and a few toys and the annual shots. HAH.

It didn't take long before we realized that he wasn't happy going for morning and evening walks and spending most of the day in the house, so we spent $100 for a gate on our rear deck, and then $3,000 for a custom awning over the deck to keep him cool when it was sunny.

As he grew bigger, he needed more room to roam than the rear deck provided, and he wasn't happy being tied up in the back yard, so we decided to have a fence put around the yard. A three-foot-high fence would have been tall enough to keep him in, and would have cost about $5,000. The helpful salesman pointed out that if we spent just $2,000 more, we could have a fence that was five feet tall, tall enough to protect a swimming pool, “just in case.”

“Just in case” came the next year, and cost us about $75,000. We didn’t buy the pool just for Hunter, but we probably would not have gotten it if we didn't already have the dog fence, and Hunter uses the pool much more than people use it.

Hunter is the ultimate SBD (silent-but-deadly) farter. His farts smell as bad as his crap, but I’ve never heard him fart even once. His butt hole is a stealth weapon, striking with no warning.

Hunter 'gets away' with a lot. Marilyn and I reward bad behavior because Hunter is a perpetual puppy and everything he does is cute. We have no human kids so Hunter gets -- and returns -- a lot of love. Dogs have advantages over human kids. No bad report cards. No bar/bat mitzvahs, college or weddings to pay for. I just pick up poop. 

There’s an animated movie called "All Dogs Go to Heaven." I’ve warned Hunter not to die, because Heaven won’t be nearly as good as what he has here and now.

Hunter eats chicken breast meat for breakfast and supper, supplemented by Natural Balance dog food and lots of dog cookies and dog biscuits -- and whatever 'people food' he mooches from nearby human beings. Sadly, he probably has a better life than millions of people on this planet.

When Marilyn is watching, Hunter drinks only Poland Spring water. When she is not watching, he is happy to slurp from a puddle or a pool.

Hunter is a very enthusiastic eater and has apparently never disliked any food. He loves cheese, chopped liver, shrimp, clams, lobster, won-ton soup, matzo ball soup, chicken noodle soup, eggs, spaghetti, ravioli, ice cream, Rice Krispies, Cheerios, apples, melon, pizza, spare ribs, hot dogs, hamburgers and, of course, steak and chicken. There are a few things we don't let him eat.

Unlike Rin Tin Tin, Hunter has flaps over his ears. However, his hearing is extremely good. Even from upstairs to downstairs he is able to hear the sound of foil, paper or cellophane being unwrapped and will quickly appear to share whatever was wrapped inside.

A few times he found and ate Hershey's Kisses, He shat out the foil.

If Hunter is in the back yard and we want him to come in, we yell "chicken." He has escaped a few times but never roamed far because he knows how good he has it here. We usually find him across the street at the front door of the house where his best friends Copper, Cheech and Buddy live.

Hunter has never had a broken bone or a serious illness. His adult weight is always about 80 pounds. He is an 80-lb. lap dog.

Hunter has never been in a kennel. He travels wherever 'mommy and daddy' go, and usually sits in the right-front seat of the car.

Although he is an 'old dog,' he does learn new tricks and loves to perform. He understands about 30-40 human words (maybe more that he chooses to ignore) and is quite able to make his wishes known with whistling, whining, tapping, posturing and pointing. I've learned to understand "doggish."

Hunter starts each morning with 'tripod." He raises his left-rear leg in front of me and stands on the other three so he can get scratched under the raised leg. Some people think it's weird.

He will also jump up and take a cookie from my mouth. Dog lovers think it's cool. Other people think it's disgusting.

When we are ready to leave the house, I tell Hunter to "walk the doggie" and he picks up the end of his own leash and walks to the door. At hotels, we go to the front desk and he stands up and puts his paws on the counter as if he's going to sign the guest register.

Hunter likes almost all people, but only a few dogs, and gets upset when a lawnmower is used nearby. He used to hate vacuum cleaners. He loves to 'grab' water coming from a hose. He does't seem to notice thunder.

Our front door has an intercom speaker and a button that makes our phones ring in bursts of three rings, instead of the normal two. Hunter is able to count the rings and goes to the door when appropriate. He can also count to give five kisses before getting a cookie.

Hunter has a few personal dog friends he likes to play with, but generally doesn't play well with strange dogs. However, he seems to recognize other goldens and labs as cousins and is instantly eager to play with them. 

Although Hunter is sort-of trained, he has trained us _very well_. We keep a water bowl in our bedroom, about five feet from the bed. At night, Hunter knows that if he starts panting, one of us will fetch the bowl and put it in front of him on the bed. We seem to exist to serve him.

Like Lassie and Rin Tin Tin, Hunter understands acting. He likes to wrestle with me, and will clamp his jaw on my hand, But, as in "The A-Team," there is never any blood. If I express displeasure, he immediately switches from biting to kissing. If I make a fist, put it near his face and say "nose wrinkle," he'll wrinkle his nose, bare his teeth and make believe he's a ferocious beast instead of a cuddly animated pillow.

Hunter is extremely strong, able to pull an adult on a sled or in a wagon. He can be tough to control on a leash when he wants to go off-course to smell something disgusting, but is very gentle with small children, and more obedient to three-year-old walkers than adults.

It's sad to face the reality that, despite his good health, Hunter probably has just a few years left. That's the way it is with dogs. We don't get to keep them. We just borrow them. It's important to make every day a good day. Whatever good things you can do for a dog will be returned ten times over.

People who abuse animals deserve to suffer for eternity. People who don't like dogs don't know what they're missing. I don't understand why people will get a dog and then spend $1,000 to have them trained _not_ to stand up on their hind legs to kiss and hug. Dog kisses are the best kisses. Dogs are the most enthusiastic greeters. Dogs are the best people.

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