Last night I spoke out on behalf of a dog that went missing. A dog that had bolted before, but for some interesting reason is allowed to be off-leash in situations precisely similar to those in which he has bolted before.
Alice the therapy min-pin is a huge part of today’s SongSharing effort. She brings a different sort of music, but it is music nonetheless; a different sort of healing, but healing nonetheless.
When I found Alice in Buckingham County, VA in 1995, after I had left a note on a couple of nearby houses and we headed home, I asked her a question that many of us dog lovers would have asked of a stray that we’d just picked up.
“What’s your name, little girl?”
In those days I honestly was not expecting an answer, but immediately she responded with “Alice”. I heard it clear as a cloudless full-moonlit night.
“Did you say Alice?”
Admittedly I was a little taken aback, but I said “Well, then, Alice, you’re going to meet some new friends tonight. When we get a signal I’ll call ahead so Lynn can tell the pack that you’re coming.” We had six other dogs at the time.
In the next few years it became very clear to me that Alice is one of the wisest voices in my head, which is one of the sources of her Canine Messiah nickname, for she is wise beyond her ears. She’s also my co-writer, and together we’ve written many a song and are working on our second book.
And so, yes, I talk to dog, and dog talks to me. And that, I have learned is a gift, and an enormous privilege that is not to be taken lightly.
Last night I spoke out on behalf of a dog that went missing. A dog that had bolted before, but for some interesting reason is allowed to be off-leash in situations precisely similar to those in which he has bolted before. What I said in a very matter of fact, honest tone was taken as a little bit harsh by someone, although I still don’t think it was a harsh statement. It’s like when you shoot an arrow from a bow. If there is no target, or it sails past the target, the target feels nothing. But if it strikes true, well then…
So I fired an arrow of honesty if you will, from an aching heart on behalf of an animal that relies upon its humans for certain things. Among those certain things it is clear to me that our dogs rely on us to treat them precisely as the dog that they are. And that’s not a hurtful arrow. It’s just an arrow.
The “dog that they are” is often drastically different than the dog that some humans imagine that they are, or pretend that they are, or wish that they might one day be. We all fancy how wonderful it would be to have an off-leash dog that never leaves our side, and never responds to instinct and suddenly bolts in pursuit of a deer or a squirrel or a car as we holler they do not hear, and call them “bad dog”.
But many of us do not have the dog we wish we had in that sense. We have the dog that we have. Alice is a flight risk, and I respect that and treat her as such, and I love her all the same. And she is either on-leash, in a crate, in the house, the camper or a hotel room with Lynn and/or me, or in the fenced yard. That is my responsibility to her.
Alice and I hope the dog that bolted yesterday is found safe. Every ounce of our mutual being hopes that. And we hope that the humans learn something, and assume an added measure of responsibility for this dog they love. Because, in my book, until they do so, they are not even close to being the fabulous dog owners that they make themselves out to be. That’s a fantasy they hold about themselves, and it can turn expensive and it can turn deadly.
Look, I’m not claiming some sense of perfection here. I too have had dogs run off in my past. I have had dogs that I allowed to roam be killed by cars. I too have blamed the dog, and the neighbors, and the way people drive. And no one ever said to me, “You know, when your dog takes off after a deer and you scream and holler its name and tell it to come, that dog does not even hear you. That dog’s brain has effectively shut you and the non-instinctual world out in that moment.” Lynn taught me that a decade ago.
Dogs evolve us, if we only hear them and listen. And sometimes I understand now, people like me must speak up for them, because alot of people only hear “woof” or “whine”, which is a vocalization, and only a minute fraction of the extensive communication that they are capable of.
So I am going to continue to speak up on behalf of dog whenever the opportunity arises. Because dogs are an incredibly important part of this world and our lives. I see it everywhere that I see Alice the therapy dog in action, whether it be a nursing home or a store like Harmony Moon this past Saturday, or a restaurant patio.