A dog for all seasonsI have written in a previous blog post about how rescuing a dog saves the human as much as the dog in a shelter who is brought to his forever home. Over the summer I read A Small Furry Hope by Steven Kotler and gasped at the wisdom and philosophical truth it offers. I loved the bit about early man walking to our continent and finding wolves who they learnt to live along side.
Like Kotler I was not always a dog person. We didn't have a dog when I was a kid but I remember the cute GSD puppy next door which was whisked away after a few weeks when the family moved to Canada if I remember rightly. I wonder if they took the dog with them. Later I became fearful of big dogs. Once, on a French exchange visit in Aix en Othe, I stayed with an Anglo French family with large drooling dogs living in outside kennels. They were scary and the guy who was scarier still, shouted at them a lot. So how come I changed my mind and adopted a huge, long coated GSD with fear aggression? It's a lot of things:
It's about needing to be in a pack. Dogs are pack animals and they need you to lead them. As a dog owner you become more confident, better organised and capable. You don't drift, you can't be lazy, you can't wallow in a negative atmosphere. Adopt a dog and you will both thrive.
The idea that the world of dogs replicates human society in a concentrate has a lot of validity - issues such as being unwanted, birth and death are all HUGE in the canine world but minimised in ours - until, of course, we have to face the loss of a family member or the arrival of a baby or the acceptance of a person who is different from us. But we can go for years without these life changing events affecting us directly. A dog's life is on average just 12 years, so when we have a dog this stuff becomes more immediate and our experience deepens.
Your dog will help you to see what matters. Dogs don't care about the provenance of the meat you buy, on-trend clothes or interior design. They don't care what you look like, or what your status is. Try telling your dog about what money can buy or the latest celebrity gossip. The response will be about right. What matters to them is companionship, the wild outdoors, physical and emotional comfort, a clean environment and occasional treats. Hang on, that's what lots of folks want too?
An inconvenient truth is that dog rescue highlights how far as humans, we fall short: Undeniably more dogs are abandoned at Christmas time, Staffies are the most represented breed in rehoming centres and we regularly ignore suffering of all kinds. We do things for show and fail to understand how important it is to take responsibility and care. Making room in your life for a dog adds to the list of positives.
A canine companion is just the best thing: if you suffer from low moods, are coping with bereavement or have a stressful job, think about adopting a dog or volunteering in a rehoming centre like this one near to us. Dogs live in the moment and you'll find yourself focussed on the good things in your life when you are with your dog. A walk outdoors with a dog is better than alcohol or pills. We got Max a year after my mum passed away. I was listless and he saved me. It's the pack thing again I guess. I lost someone and found Max. I'll leave you to think about your own circumstances.
I'm a big fan of rescue organisations large and small. We got Max from a dedicated GSD rescue network - link is here. He was about 2 or 3 years old and had been left, tied to a field gate with a female Rottweiler for someone to find - eventually. I was sad to separate them but then their futures were very uncertain and I don't think there would have been many takers for this large, aggressive male dog. We hadn't owned a dog before but we were determined to follow through and make Max part of our family. We've had him four years now and we have made sacrifices: visitors are still a problem and he barks and howls when he's alone but he loves us unconditionally and our lives would be shallower without him. I think about him a lot when I'm not at home. I love Friday afternoon walks and sofa time knitting or watching TV with Max next to me. I would never dream of buying a dog - not when there are so many who need a family. We have Max now but looking after rescued animals in some way will always be important to me. If you like being at home, adopting a dog is such a fun and fulfilling thing to do. It helps if you have a supportive partner who likes dog walking too. Think about it and visit a local rehoming centre to see for yourself.