Sunday, August 23, 2009

Walk the Line

Dogs bark. Viggo barks and barks. We diagnosed this as little man complex. He is quite impressively huge when he puffs up his chest and lets the collective roar of the animal kingdom channel through him. But it annoys the neighbors.

We took Viggo to meet with his breeder. I know breeder is a bad word in pet communities but let me explain Marilyn is no ordinary pup pimp. Marilyn loves dogs (dachshunds in particular) and she has many that she shows professionally around the country. Peter has the best analogy-she loves dogs the way a mechanic loves cars. Its a different love but just as fierce. And she is clearly who we turn to for tips in dog psychology.

Since we don't have TV (scholars that we are) we were unversed in the phenomenon that is the "Dog Whisperer." We quickly caught up. There are 2 kinds of dogs-followers and leaders. Leaders walk ahead of their owners, barking at others as a form of protection for their pack. This has been Viggo. But yesterday, Viggo learned to be a follower. We kept him behind us on the lead and I'll be if that little dog didn't submit to us. Its a small adjustment but made a substantial difference to our relationship to him and his public behavior. 

One would assume that this type of role reversal would require a fight for power but as we found out, dogs live in the moment. No matter the dogs age or habits, they can change. And change quickly.

Why can't people do the same? No amount of cheese or bacon can get some people out of their habits. But then again, how many of us can own up to our own barks. It takes the courage that our 4-legged friends never once doubt that they have.

Maybe we think we are too old to change. I'm reading an amazing book on learning and creativity by a man I heard speak once, Ken Robinson. He says, in "The Element":

For the most part, people seem to think that life is linear, that our capacities decline as we grow older, and that opportunities we have missed are gone forever. Many people...don't understand their constant potential for renewal. 

Viggo is smart. I should follow him more often.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A day in the life of You.

Having a dog present in the house creates more than just "cute" moments, I  believe it makes you more meditative. This morning I was watching Viggo chew on a bull penis (yes) and I felt, what we would call in acting class, the "truth" of the moment. 

You see Viggo's life comprises of moments that you and I would consider small: peeing, chasing, walking, sitting in laps, eating. And he loves each activity- fully exerting his 10-lb body to each task. When its done, he patiently waits, happy for what is to come.

As an observer its easy to dismiss his actions as meaningless, afterall, outside of this house, people would classify him as an animal and not to be held up to human standards. Maybe this is true, but shouldn't we at least hold our own standards up to that of Viggo's now and again?

Can we each say that we spend each day devoting ourselves to the things that hold value to us? Are our own days "work" really that much grander or more important than Viggo's? We attempt with all our actions to achieve what feels good and to make those that we care about feel the same, if not better than ourselves. Dogs do this each day... and they don't even need to twitter about it. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

If you want to help an animal shelter...

You could hire a photographer to take pictures of pooches poised as school children. I would adopt the entire class.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

My future children are going to be chubby.

Peter and I agreed early on that we would never feed Viggo off the table. But in the kitchen, Viggo acts like a very anxious sous-chef on his first dinner shift. It was just a matter of time before a piece of meat slipped off the counter and into his waiting jowls. And I can't tell you how my heart warmed seeing  my sweet pup enjoy a bite of bacon. It was a lot like when I  watched that documentary on Amish teens during rumspringa (the year when they enter the "mainstream" world and basically go on highly encouraged  drug binge.) Once I saw Viggo enjoying the forbidden, meat, I couldn't let it stop there. I wanted him to have steak. No, I wanted him to try filet mignon. Then I wanted him to sleep in bed with us. No, I wanted him to have our bed and we would sleep on the floor.

I wanted to give him everything he has ever desired because it felt good to watch  pleasure that you were solely responsible for. 

So yes, chances are my future children are going to be Type-2 Diabetics who suck their thumbs until they are 19. 

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Contemplating Mechanics

It must be difficult, not having the ability to reason. I meet people without this function all the time but I seem to have more sympathy for the animals these days. Often we put Viggo in situations that test his limits:

-In front of a full length mirror he wonders who that pup is that lives on the other side and why, when he puts his paws on the glass, can he not walk through? (Profound my dog is.)

-In the car he must wonder why this particular seat makes scenery and smells go by at 60mph? And why does this seat drop him off at his best pup friends (Sammy and Rocky) house while the couch at home has no such power?

-He loves to chase birds. But they fly away. "Where are my wings?", he seems to ask me with his contemplative eyes .

-Today Viggo encountered his first squirrel. I have often seen squirrels cower at the sight of my dog but today was the first day he spotted them back. The squirrel ran up a tree and my dog tried to follow. He made a good effort but, again, "why does gravity hold me back?" He searched for the answer to that one on the tree itself. Once distracted by another dogs tinkle at the base of the tree, he forgot the question. I imagine the best philosophers operate in a similar manner. 

-It probably took me to the age of 8 to question why my popsicle disappeared, but at 11-months Viggo is forced to deal with hard realities. The ice cube that he plays with and then puts under the bed is sadly not there when he returns. Its not for lack of looking as he will search the house for it. Of course this always reminds me of the overly depressing "Frosty the Snowman" cartoon. I do hope Viggo doesn't name his ice cubes. I would hate for him to get so attached. Kids can deal with this seasonally but loss like this on an everyday basis is just to much to ask of him. Physics is devastating isn't it?

I wonder if Stephen Hawking has a dog and if he is able to enlighten his pooch by answering questions about Earth/Space/Time? Perhaps his speech panel has a special high-pitched dog mode. Well, as I keep telling Viggo, anything is possible.