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Dog Songs

I've never owned a dog in my life and at this stage never will. But I've never seen so many dogs and dog owners as there are in Wexford. Every family in the town must have at least two!

Yesterday I came across a reference to Mary Oliver's Dog Songs and realized the wonderful relationship people have with their dogs and what we can learn from them about ourselves. Recently we had a story in the Irish newspapers about a family Great Dane who can sense when a young 3-year old child in the family is about to have a seizure and pins the child to the wall until help comes.
Dog Songs
In her poems Mary celebrates that special human-canine relationship and what it reveals about the meaning of our own lives. A few quotes:

"A dog can never tell you what she knows from the smells of the world, but you know, watching her, that you know almost nothing."

"Be prepared. A dog is adorable and noble. A dog is a true and loving friend. A dog is also a hedonist."

"Dogs die so soon. I have my stories of that grief, no doubt many of you do also. It is almost a failure of will, a failure of love, to let them grow old — or so it feels. We would do anything to keep them with us, and to keep them young. The one gift we cannot give."

"Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift. It is not the least reason why we should honor as well as love the dog of our own life, and the dog down the street, and all the dogs not yet born. What would the world be like without music or rivers or the green and tender grass? What would this world be like without dogs?"

" . . . the wholehearted devotion of dogs, who love us unconditionally and in the process teach us to love; in letting us see ourselves through their eyes, they help us believe what they see, believe that we are worthy of love, that we are love."

I'm sure all you dog-lovers have experienced this.


They used to say that dogs evolved from wolves and became domesticated by hanging around the outskirts of early human settlements. Now it seems more likely that early man became domesticated by learning how to be social from watching those same dogs.
As a dog owner who has loved all the dogs she has owned and is also very fond of dogs belonging to other people, I do find this a bit over-sentimental in that it doesn't mention the times you want to kill the brutes.

For instance, in the last few days my big Smooth Collie, Bren, has discovered that if he stands on his hind legs he can reach things on the work surfaces in the kitchen. Two days ago he ate about nine muffins in their paper cases which he snarfled from the back of the cooker, where they were cooling on a tray. What's more, he has food allergies to most of the ingredients, and the paper cases could get stuck in his intestine. He was a very sorry-for-himself dog yesterday. Which did not stop him snatching a pack of butter from the kitchen worksurface last night, though I was able to rescue that before he ate it. He also eats some things that are quite unmnentionable.

He partner in crime, our English Toy Terrier, Draco, hates the rain enough so that he will avoid going out in the garden and sneak off somewhere dry (i.e. in the house) to do his business. He also rolls in dead things and the smelliest poo, and bullies smaller dogs and puppies unmercifully.
I did say a dog is also very much a hedonist!
It's a wolf. Wolves are interested in food, running, sex, their place in the pack hierarchy, marking territory and sleep. They are pack animals and the humans are their pack, so if the human is dominant they aim to please as they would aim to please the alpha bitch while doing anything they can get away with when unnoticed.

Dogs are almost the same as wolves and behave in much the same way, except that some breeds have been selected for useful traits, such as the subversion of hunting patterns in the sheep and cattle dogs into herding (with no need at all to subvert it in the hounds and terriers) and defence of the pack into the guarding breeds.
Very true. My life simply would not have been the same without my dogs.

I think one of the saddest things is when you meet one of those people who was so bereaved by the loss of a dog that they refuse to ever get another one. I just don't get that. Yes, it's horribly painful, and it's pretty much inherent when you get a dog that you will outlive it, but what a sacrifice of joy that decision entails.
I love dogs. My parents had dogs when I was born, and when I was 5 they let me pick out a puppy of my own. Ever since, I have had a dog in my life. When one dies, I immediately begin the process of searching for a puppy. My life is better in every single way because I have a dog, and I think I am a better person.