Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Top Five Uses for Dogs

In response to yesterday's post, The Top Five Uses for Cats, I must now suggest what I see are the top five uses for their counterparts in the pet world: specifically, "Man's Best Friend," the canine companion and crusader.

Your dog, that is.

And yes, as I tell my wife all the time, when she poops there, she most definitely is your dog, not mine.

But first, a few applicable quotations:

"Heaven goes by favor.  If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in." - Mark Twain

"Dogs never bite me.  Just humans." - Marilyn Monroe

"If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you.  This is the principal difference between a dog and a man." - Mark Twain

"The only creatures that are evolved enough to convey pure love are dogs and infants." - Johnny Depp

"I looked up my family tree and found three dogs using it." - Rodney Dangerfield

So what are the top five uses for dogs?

5.  Pulling stuff

One of my favorite memories from my years in Alaska was when we headed out to Wasilla and cheered on the "real" start of the Iditarod.  Why "real"?

See, the race technically starts on Saturday in Anchorage, dog teams coursing down streets that have just received the snow pack that's been saved up all winter (and that will be scooped up and shoved right back into storage that afternoon) to the sound of local radio station booths pumping out tunes as the Hooters girls and several high school cheerleading squads jump, gyrate, and yell.  The teams rush out of downtown, one at a time down a carefully guarded course, and over the river and through the woods (literally) to Eagle River they go, whereupon they put their teams back into trucks to drive to Wasilla (now, incidentally, it's held farther north in Willow due to "lack of snow," but of course global warming is only a figment of people's imagination).

That ain't a dog race.  That's a spectacle involving dogs.  The real race, to me, begins Sunday as teams launch out into the wilderness on the thousand (ish) mile journey to Nome.

Anyway, there is an unbelievable amount of energy that's palpable as a long team of dogs leaps forward as one to pull a guy, a sled, and some supplies across the field of snow.  They're excited, and you can tell it.  I'm sure they have no idea that they're reenacting the great push to get diptheria vaccine to Nome that happened back in 1925.  None of them has any idea of the statue of Balto erected in New York City's Central Park, nor have any of them likely enjoyed the Disney animated movie of the same name.  Human says to mush, and much mushing they do!

Now, it has to be pointed out that we say "strong as an ox," and that nobody has ever discussed internal combustion engine ability in terms of dogpower.  That said, the redoubtable canine will forever have a place in our books on northern history and our tow lines, to say nothing of our hearts.

Besides, cats can't.  Go ahead, hook one up to a sled and say "mush."  I dare you.

4.  Keeping our kitchen floors clean

Some dogs are so well-behaved that they don't hang out under their human's feet while said human is preparing dinner.  At least, so I've heard.  I've never met one; nearly all my indoor canine family members have chosen to give me as much moral support as I could stand while I was in that particular room.

It's got nothing to do with the fact that meat has a way of falling off the counters in doggy-bite-sized pieces while I'm in there, either.  You believe me, right?  I mean it, cross my heart and hope to eat pie.

It doesn't have to be meat, though.  Anything that slips off the cutting board and hits the floor is fair game to pooches, and five second rule can just be danged.  Last night we were cooking (well, I was cutting, my lovely bride was actually the one doing the cooking) my absolute favorite vegetable in the entire world, and two of the little rounds of raw okra slipped off the cutting board onto the floor all on their own.  Zoom, the Chihuahua moved!  Before I could say anything, much less "hey dummy, raw okra tastes awful," she had both of her new treasures in her tiny mouth and carried them, tail wagging proudly above and behind her, head held high, into the study.  There they remained until I picked them up, left there because she clearly did not like the taste.

At least the kitchen floor stays clean, though, right?

3.  Intruder alert system

I've heard it's possible to train a furry family member not to bark at strangers, but I'm not sure I believe the stories.  Every dog I've had has been like, "Okay, daddy, I won't bark at--hey, look at that strange guy out there rooff rooff ruff ruff roor roor rooff rooff...."


Apparently it's part of their basic nature.  While most cats are like, "oh, hey, welcome to my pad, and please meet my human servants," dogs take a personal--er, canine?--interest in whatever space their human masters inhabit.  And it's not just the companions to humans; it's apparently a basic canine characteristic.  I ran into a guy in Montana who lived way out in the sticks and claimed he'd never had a problem with wolves or coyotes because over the first few months he'd lived there he'd managed to visit every tree and bush on the perimeter at least once and pee on it.  This activity had had the dual effect of signaling his territory as his to all alien dog-like creatures while driving up the price of coffee in the local area. 

2.  Heating systems

Ever been sitting on the couch watching a movie and had a dog wrap itself around your feet?  If not, you have no idea what you're missing.  Our canine friends make the best footwarmers anywhere, ever.  They do the same for our laps, though some of 'em might be just a skosh too heavy to do so comfortably, and some of us might have laps that have become just a skosh too small to support a dog comfortably.  That said, if the size matches, it's a wonderful thing.

Puppies can also be good for keeping our toesies warm while we're snuggled under the blankies, I should add.  My own fluffy one loves hanging out there or in behind the curve of my knees while I'm trying to sleep.  After I'm asleep, then, she's good at warming up my chest, my ears, and sometimes my nose and mouth.  That last can make for an uncomfortable wake-up, trust me.

This warming effect pretty much saved our lives once upon a time, in fact.  Once long ago I purchased ten acres of prime real estate near the Susitna River (the Big Su) outside of Trapper Creek, Alaska.  We had an opportunity to spend the week of Christmas at a good friend's lodge in the Denali National Park, and after seven beautiful days we returned to find that someone had stolen the regulator from our propane tank, thus rendering one heating system unusable for the night.  Then I tried lighting the ancient wood stove, but the single-walled chimney had rusted out and so the attempt filled the house with smoke.  We--my wife, stepdaughter, and I--all ended up piling into one full-sized bed along with two large dogs, and in large part due the concentration of human and canine body heat we all made it through a night in which temperatures dipped to fifty below zero.

Thus it is that no matter what needs warming up, even sometimes my cold, dark heart, doggies are good for that. 

1.  Making every day awesome

I think, honestly, that this is my single most favorite thing about dogs.  No matter how great or terrible a day I had back when I had a kitty, Freya would show up sometime during the evening and suggest kindly that I feed her.  Yuki, my Chihuahua, however, always greets me at the door with a smile and a cheerful squealing that brings joy to my Evil Overlord soul whether I want it or not.

Matter of fact, I don't even have to be gone all day for it.  Yesterday I came home early in order to take the family to our doctor appointment, and she celebrated my arrival.  We were gone for a couple of hours, and when we came back she again celebrated my arrival.  I returned to work to finish a couple of projects before the weekend, and when I arrived--yeah, third verse, same as the first.

Aren't dogs cool?


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