Most of our Op Shop volunteers make a big fuss when customers bring babies into the shop. I guess I am not very maternal. I prefer dogs.
A few customers bring dogs and tie them up outside the shop while they browse. Sometimes we’re asked for a bowl of water for them which we are happy to supply. If it is not too warm, other customers leave their dogs in their cars with the windows open. I don’t really like this but those people don’t usually stay long. Very occasionally a customer might bring their dog inside and carry it around with them.
This week I met two dogs at the shop. One was a twelve-year-old German Shepherd whose owner had come in to find a couple of old blankets for her. Twelve is a good age for a German Shepherd so when she commented on how much her dog loved soft toys I found one for her to give it. The lady let her dog out of the car to stretch her legs and say hello to me, it was near the end of the day and I was taking things back inside the shop. She seemed to love the toy and carried it around in her mouth. I don’t know if this dog understood that the toy came from me but she came up and gave me a lick. I know a lot of people are frightened of German Shepherds but the ones I have met have all been lovely dogs.
My second dog moment left me feeling quite angry. Some people had come in and were browsing while their dog, which was tied up outside near the water container, was barking and crying. The people were in the shop for a long time and it sounded to me as if the dog was getting quite distressed. One of the owners went out to check on it once but when he came back inside the dog started crying again.
I guess I am sensitive to this because Cindy gets anxious when I am away from her. I went outside to have a look at the dog and discovered it was a puppy, not a tiny puppy but only a few months old. It was at that clumsy big-footed stage. I let it sniff my hand and talked to it for a bit before thinking I had better get back to work. The owners were still shopping, they did not seem to be in much of a hurry. I went out again, my feet were hurting and I needed a rest so I thought I’d sit on the bench outside and keep the pup company for a few minutes. He cried and tried to come to me but the leash was not long enough to allow that so I went and stood beside him and patted him and told him it would be OK.
I was still out there talking to the pup when the owners came back. I was really annoyed with them by now and I said that the pup was too young to understand them being gone for so long. They said “He’s got to learn.” and “It’s better to ignore him when he cries.” I thought “Yes, but not for that long.” they must have been gone at least half an hour. So I said “I bet you wouldn’t leave a baby crying for that long.” and the woman said that she probably would.
I went back inside because there was no point in saying anything else to them but I was angry about it for the rest of the day.
I thought I’d share a couple of photos that I took of Cindy and Polly today. The last couple of weeks have been very strange to them and I’m very relieved that they have adapted well to our current situation.
I haven’t mentioned this in a post before because I have been deeply upset about it but a few months ago Cindy and Polly had a big fight. I don’t know what it was over as I didn’t see what happened. They get on so well that I could usually let them move freely around the house. I would separate them to eat because Cindy will eat the cat food of course. I don’t let Cindy have bones any more because she gets a very bad attitude about sharing and always thinks Polly will take it from her. Actually, I have seen Polly stealing Cindy’s dry food but she didn’t seem to worry about that.
Anyway this particular evening both had gone outside and I had left the back door open so they could come back. That’s when I heard an awful din coming from the passage. As I said I have no idea what happened. Did Polly steal some dog food? did she startle Cindy in the dark? I don’t know but she was seriously upset and had a little scratch on her face. She would not go near Cindy for several days after that.
Then one day after I’d been keeping them apart they met and appeared to be fine. All was good for a couple of weeks then, again when I was in the next room something happened. I did not hear a fight but Polly ran out upset again and this time she did not forgive Cindy. Since then if she even saw her through a glass door she would hiss and stalk away. I am sure Cindy had no idea why Polly was still mad at her.
I had to keep the two of them separate. Cindy had the run of the living rooms and kitchen as well as outside. Polly had the passage and bedrooms. At night I would have to shoo her into the laundry so I could shut Cindy in my room before bed. Polly missed me I think. Sometimes she’d miaow at the living room door for me to come and would just want to be petted. Cindy spent a lot of time lying under the pergola outside. I was miserable because I missed spending time with Polly, Cindy cried if I was away from her too long, and I missed watching them play together.
Naturally, I was worried sick about how I was going to manage them when we had to evacuate. My friends in Franklin have dogs so Cindy had to stay outside a lot or if I brought her to where I was sleeping I had to put Polly in her crate and put it in the toilet. It was far from ideal for either of them.
Then we came here to Matt and Ally’s place. The original plan was for Polly to be confined to the laundry but she soon worked out how to open the sliding door. We moved her to the room Ally uses for craft and she was happy enough but soon she wanted to come out. One day she managed to slip out the door when I was closing it and came face to face with Cindy who would lie outside the door whenever I was in there.
Nothing happened! Polly greeted her as if there had never been a fight and since then she has been quite her old self around Cindy even going up to give her a wash like she always used to. I haven’t seen them play yet but they might when we go home. I have no idea what prompted the change in attitude but it has made things so much easier.
Of course, I don’t take anything for granted. Polly is shut away to eat and I have bought a crate for Cindy and shut her in it at night. Polly sometimes sleeps in the room with us but I no longer have to worry about fights when I am asleep. I will never leave them unsupervised together if I go out or anywhere around food but I feel like it is a little miracle.
I was busy taking photos for Cee’s challenges and wanted to include one of Cindy’s water bowl. She decided that she would come and sit on her bed while I was doing it so I took a picture. I decided it wasn’t suitable for the challenge but it was too nice to waste.
On Friday my garden guys came to prune the apple tree and after they left I went out to take some photos of it as I do every year. The sun was quite bright and concentrating on the tree I entirely failed to notice that Cindy had more pressing business on her mind. Oh well at least it gave me a bad photo Monday shot.
When I wrote my cat post last week I said that I often felt that dogs were like four-legged people. Since the first dogs became human companions we’ve bred them for a variety of purposes. We’ve bred dogs to hunt game large and small, dogs to herd and protect sheep, dogs that won’t shed hair and dogs in every shape, size and colour just because we can. I have read that over time we have encouraged the puppy like traits in our dogs and I guess that is why our dogs often seem like exuberant, hairy toddlers rather than animals.
My dog Cindy is twelve years old now and although she has slowed down a bit she is still very puppy like at times. When David and I arrived home from somewhere the first thing we’d usually see was Cindy capering in excitement at the back door. We used to say to each other. “There’s the dancing dog.” These days I mostly enter the house at the front door and as soon as she hears my key in the lock she’s there at the door wriggling and jumping before racing down the passage to the back door to be let out.
A dog doesn’t have complicated needs. mostly they want food, a warm place to sleep and to be with you. Dogs are always glad to see you when you get home, always ready to go for a walk or play a game but if you feel like lounging on the couch that’s fine too. They often mistake your bed or your favourite chair for theirs or perhaps they were just keeping it warm for you. In my family we have always let our dogs be in the house with us despite the wear and tear on furniture and the permanent covering of dog hair over pretty much everything. We’ve had neighbours who left their dogs outside all the time and of course the poor things are lonely if the family doesn’t spend time with them so they bark and howl. That seems mean to me. If a pristine house is so important get outside and spend time with your dog, or don’t have one.
Dogs are smart. You can teach them to do all sorts of thing from a simple “fetch” game to performing all kinds of services, farmers still use dogs for herding sheep and cattle, police and the military use them for a variety of tasks. The quarantine service uses them. Here in Tasmania certain foodstuffs are not allowed in from mainland Australia and at the airport or ferry terminal you may be greeted by a beagle who will sniff out any fruit you may have forgotten about in your luggage.
Vision impaired people rely on their guide dogs, they are usually Labradors and sometimes I’ve seen the Vision Australia volunteer puppy walkers taking the trainee guide dogs about town to get them socialised. People have service dogs for other reasons though. My friend Gillian who has a hearing impairment has a service dog who can alert her to sounds around the house like the phone, the microwave and washing machine if she is in another room. Service dogs are allowed the same privileges of travelling on public transport and going into buildings where pet dogs are not allowed as guide dogs are. They wear a distinctive coat but as yet they are still unfamiliar to many people. These dogs are not a specific breed as they are usually sourced from shelters as young dogs and trained before being matched with a new owner. The Lions Club of Australia who fundraise for the Hearing Dogs put out a calendar every year. It shows a variety of dogs, Labradors of course but a lot of mixed breed dogs from a German Shepherd X Kelpie to a Spaniel X, Jack Russell X and even a Maltese X Shi Tzu. Gillian has a mixed breed terrier and sometimes speaks at clubs and schools to raise awareness of the need for Hearing Dogs. Dusty, her dog, goes too of course and he thoroughly enjoys the attention. Of course you should not pat a service dog when he is working but once the coat is off they like it as much as any other dog.
Most dogs love to play and to meet other dogs if they have been socialised as puppies although some like it more than others. Cindy used to play with other dogs when David took her to the leash free park but she was always more focussed on her tennis ball. Three of our four dogs have had the tennis ball obsession. There was Nicki who, if you couldn’t find a ball for her to chase, would bring you a rock when we were at our local beach. She would chase them for as long as you wanted to throw and if you threw it in to the sea to end the game she’d plunge in after it and return with a rock, not necessarily the same one but she figured it would do. Nicki tended to bring back rocks the size of half a brick even if you had only thrown a pebble.
Tessie, who we had for twelve years was also a tennis ball fanatic. We lived next door to a reserve where there were tennis courts and if we walked that way she’d want to stop and watch, sometimes she’d find a stray tennis ball in the grass and pick it up. One of the coaches from the tennis club took a liking to Tessie and would sometimes give her an old ball so we had some very good quality tennis balls. Tessie was a friendly dog and she was cute, a Corgi X Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. At the beach she would take her ball up to anyone who happened to be there drop it in front of them and give a bark inviting them to join her game. Most people did, some I had to explain what she wanted, like the group of Japanese tourists we met one day. Tessie did not discriminate, all were welcome to play. Sometimes she used to drop her ball by a baby or small child and she was just as happy with their baby sized throws as the ones that sent the ball down the beach. Tessie’s bark was her way of speaking to us; whether she wanted a ball thrown or to go for a walk she let us know.
And now I’ve written over eleven hundred words and I still haven’t said all I want to say about dogs. They are our best friends. We couldn’t get by without them.