Going to the Dogs
With such a beautiful morning going, plenty to take care of and a cup of my fav Eight O’Clock coffee under my belt (it’s hard to find in stores around here), I suddenly recalled a pet peeve of mine, so to speak. Many campers of all stripes, from tenters to motorhome dwellers, keep pets. That’s perfectly fine if you appreciate their company and can live with the inconveniences they impose. The good part for me is that, out here, none so far have proven to be mindless yappers or ill-behaved. The great majority are kept leashed or tied up, per campsite policy.
During my first disappointing venture to the dump station yesterday, I noticed a woman holding her dog in her arms while another dog circled her, wanting to get at it. I assumed she had two dogs. Then they drove away, and I found the one, a dark, nervous, coyote-like mutt wearing a blue bandana around its neck, still wandering around. It went from vehicle to vehicle, then to a man throwing bags of garbage into the dumpsters. It even followed my truck briefly as I repositioned the Ford for the next stage. It appeared agitated and lost, one of those one-man dogs who had lost its one man. The guy at the dumpsters asked if it was my dog, and when I assured him that it wasn’t, he looked at it, slowly shaking his head with some pity and a little anger.
He wasn’t angry at the dog. He was angry at the kind of people who “love” their furry buddies so much that they feel compelled to turn them loose to enjoy the wilds with them, free and unconstrained by The Man’s arbitrary and suffocating rules. A dog that’s free to wander is a natural thing, right? Back to nature. No arbitrary boundaries. That’s what it’s all about out here, isn’t it?
So here’s a frightened dog that’s basically unsocialized, untrusting, lost as lost can be, and surrounded by thousands of acres of barren desert. And, its human pal and caretaker has placed it at risk in the name of his own personal freedom. How’s that dog going to find his owner again out here? It looked completely disoriented. There’s no one to call. There’s no dogcatcher department in the town five miles away. And the local police, if they’ll come out to this federally-run area at all, won’t come out unless it attacks someone. It’s just a lost dog.
Meanwhile, its owner is assuming that it will find its way back – it always has. If it doesn’t show up within a reasonable time, the owner will fret and lament not that he shouldn’t have let it run free, but merely that it hasn’t returned. I’ve read a few first-hand accounts of counterculture-ish campers whose pet companions disappeared for unusually long periods, and this is how they tend to think. If the animal resists training and can’t help itself from chasing things and disappears for days in the bush, they lament the trait and yet never give a thought to keeping it tied. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that mountain bikers, young or old, are a potential chase object. One guy had a chaser that looked like a cross between a german shepherd and a rottweiler, and I can tell you that few things evoke a chase response better than a bicyclist meandering by. Biking across remote areas is fairly common out here.
Like parents who feel that discipline is a negative damper to a child’s development, there are a few people who don’t really get what love is. They simply indulge their own insecurities or compulsions without a thought to a welfare other than their own, at the core. The center of their being is feeling the emotion of love for their pet, rather than doing what needs to be done for it. The gold standard of this is the pet owner who can’t bring him or herself to have an animal that is dying and in great pain put down. They “love” it too much, they say. Turning an unsocialized dog free out here, with or without a “my pal” blue bandanna is not love. It’s selfishness and irresponsibility masquerading as it.
That’s why the guy at the dumpsters was dismayed and angry. Safe to say, I felt that way too. Did I leave anything unclear on this? Didn’t think so.