Thursday, January 17, 2008

Winter Thoughts - Dogs

Sometime in January

When I awoke sometime between three and four pm a dog was barking. It may have the dog who lives nearby in a kennel in the neighbor's back yard. The bark was a medium pitch and not particularly distinctive. It wasn't a howl, but close to one. He would bark two or three times then pause a few seconds before barking again. The bark didn't awake me. It wasn't that loud. But I had to wonder why the dog was barking. Was he lonely and trying to solicit a response? Was he afraid? The snow was falling again from a gray sky as it has two or three times in the past week, and the dog's bark sounded a little like the weather; lonely, cold and gray.
I thought about dogs I have known. I remember coming home from school one day as a child and finding a puppy on the enclosed back porch. My father brought it home for me. Brownie and I became close friends. When we went to get a license for him my dad reported that he was a collie, but I remember him as a mongrel of non-specific origin, too small and short-haired to be a collie. Brownie lasted for several years before meeting his maker under the wheels of a car streaming down the hill and past our driveway. I was helping the neighbor, Warren Hoover, on his farm when I heard that Brownie had been hit by a car. I remember running home but not much more about that day. Two puppies, Spot and Rusty, followed the example set by Brownie and died under the wheels of cars, both within six weeks of joining our household. Our next dog, Flash, lived much longer and was actually there long after I left home, but he spent more of his time chained to the barn than the others did. Having unlimited space for a dog to run and play is not necessarily safe for the dog.
Since then my appreciation for dogs has taken a nosedive. It's likely due to negative experiences I've had with dogs as a runner the past forty years. That includes having large dogs clear fences chasing me while their owners stood silently by and watched, having my running clothes torn by dogs, and other unpleasant and threatening confrontations with loose canines while running or walking. Next to humans, mosquitoes, and some bacteria and viruses, dogs are probably the most dangerous living creatures in the world. Dogs can behave badly, but the real problem is usually irresponsible dog owners. I'm waiting for the expanding wolf population in Idaho to reach the city of Boise. A couple wolf packs should clear out the stray and loose dogs in town just like they're taking care of troublesome feral cattle and sheep in other parts of the state. Otherwise we may have to change the name of Boise to something more appropriate. What's the French word for "city of dogs?"