Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Thursday, October 27, 2016

As I write, the love of my life is off to the state penitentiary. I expect her back at the farm in late afternoon. She’s a volunteer with “Paws in Prison,” an organization that matches homeless dogs with inmate trainers.

After 12 weeks of living and working with prisoners, dogs “graduate” and are put up for adoption. Diane’s task is to match needy animals with families. An experienced canine diplomat, she’s perfect for the job.

It’s trickier than you’d think. A 110-pound mastiff who’s never seen a child may not know how to act. A dog that’s grown accustomed to prison life — a perfect canine environment, with unlimited attention and an “owner” who never goes away — may react badly to being left alone. Inexperienced owners sometimes underestimate their needs.

Graduation day can be emotional. Men who have done terrible things in their lives come to feel a strong connection with their dogs. Only the promise of a new student for another three months makes it alright letting them go.

The thing about dogs is they don’t know about your rap sheet and they don’t care. Some inmates have told Diane how much the animals have helped alleviate their feelings of isolation. A couple have volunteered that having them around has altered the prison environment for the better. Hard shells soften while petting a dog.

Indeed, I wonder if it’s possible to fully trust anybody who dislikes dogs, although there are many people who probably shouldn’t own one. I’m thinking now of the authors of a recent Slate piece called a “Big data dog graph” ranking breeds by “costs and benefits” of owning one. They’ve produced a handsome graphic purporting to distinguish “inexplicably overrated” breeds from “overlooked treasures.”

It reads like something Mitt Romney would love. The criteria were “intelligence,” “longevity,” “appetite,” “grooming costs,” and a couple of others. The idea being that if you’re a clear-thinking, trendy pet owner, your dog of choice will be a border collie, while if you like them short-lived and stupid, you’ll show up the dog park with some unfortunate brute like a mastiff or a boxer.

Except what if you don’t have a herd of sheep to keep your border collie busy and the children in your neighborhood resent being herded? What if kids’ parents object to their being nipped on the rump to speed them along? In my experience, border collies simply shouldn’t live in town. Slate’s graph excludes everything about this wonderful breed that makes them unique.

That’s true throughout. My point is that breeds of dog are among mankind’s oldest and most successful examples of biological engineering. Most were created for specific purposes: beagles to track rabbits and deer, bloodhounds to catch convicts, setters and spaniels to point upland game birds, golden retrievers to fetch ducks, rottweilers and Great Pyrenees to guard livestock, malamutes to pull sleds, etc.

While many are no longer used for these purposes, most retain breed characteristics it’s important to understand. I know an artist who once adopted a Dalmatian because she liked its spotted coat. Alas, as coach dogs, Dalmatians tend to be tireless, aggressive and not very interested in cuddling. Almost any mixed-breed stray at the county shelter would have served her better.

Out here in the boondocks, our needs are so varied we currently keep six dogs of four breeds: three for security, two for comic relief, and one to keep the couch on the floor.

The two Great Pyrenees sometimes intimidate visitors who don’t notice that the German shepherd’s doing all the growling. People, they’re OK with, although nobody comes on the place without a close escort. Strange dogs, however, need to stay away. Indeed no animal with sharp teeth or talons is permitted, apart from their personal cats, whom they protect.

Great Pyrenees exercise their own judgment, often ignore contrary commands, and appear totally fearless. That can become a problem. Like border collies, they’re unsuited for city life. Ours have never shown aggression toward humans, but I suspect if somebody tried to hurt us, they’d wish they hadn’t.

“Pupska,” the German shepherd who got her dopey name because somebody dumped her as a puppy and we weren’t going to keep her, is the only dog we own that obeys commands. She’s also the only one who’s ever nipped a priest’s ankle. She kept warning Father Davis not to approach until one of us came outside to OK him, but would he listen?

According to the Big Data Dog Graph, my basset hounds are stupid and eat too much, hence not desirable. It’s true they’re not great problem solvers. Mainly, they enjoy napping with cats. They’re also total sniffaholics. Walking them on a leash would be slow-motion torture.

But they love everybody, they’re happy all the time, and they make me laugh six times a day. That’s got to be worth something.

Photo: “bingham30069” via Flickr

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  • Budjob

    Dogs are the nicest people I know! My current canine friend is a mixed breed German shepherd,black lab,rottweiler,husky mix.Her name is Molly,with one blue eye and one brown eye.

    • BillP

      I agree too. My latest dog is a 4yo female German Shorthaired Pointer I adopted about 2 years ago from a GSP rescue organization. She’s the sweetest dog, she came house-trained and has never done anything wrong in my house. She was found as a stray in the Mid-West.

      • hicusdicus

        I used wonder why I liked dogs more than people. After being on the internet for a few years I now have the answer. A couple came over to my house and the wife stated that she did not like dogs. I suggested to her husband that he should take is wife out to the county road,[ Off my property] as she was not welcome at my home. I feel that people who don’t like dogs and enjoy killing animals should be held at arms length. Right now A lovely girl rottweiler laying at my feet is passing enough gas to float the Hindenburg. I am beginning to lose conciseness. If I was suicidal I would light a match.

        • Budjob

          Hicus,My past canine friend was a husky/collie mix.With age came the flatulence and,it kept coming and,coming and,coming! She expelled a lot of gas but my oh my what a SUPER INTELLIGENT girl she was!!!

          • Buffalo Bill

            I also had a husky/collie mix, too. She was a great dog and super smart. She was also beautiful. She did not have the flatulence issue.

          • hicusdicus

            Dog farts can be fun unless you don’t have a remote control fan.

  • hicusdicus

    I am demented and with out good judgement . I have a problem with leaving stray dogs to starve and be in pain. I now have 13 dogs including 3 puppies. Fortunately I live on 50 fenced acres and have enough funds to keep them fed, housed and with vet care. Sometimes it is a pain but then again what isn’t.

    • Buffalo Bill

      Demented and without good judgment – no.
      Good, loving and caring person – yes.

      • hicusdicus

        I don’t understand what you just said so I will put it down as an unintelligible internet comment, Take no offense, if you want, just explain.

        • Buffalo Bill

          I was saying that you are not demented and without good judgment, but instead a good, loving and caring person.

  • Buffalo Bill

    It broke my heart in the worst way when my half-husky, half-collie died at the age of 9 1/2. 92 pound dogs don’t have long life spans. She was my big time buddy.

  • Buffalo Bill

    Don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like dogs? How about not trusting anyone that a dog doesn’t like? Dogs have a knack for sorting people out really fast. If a dog shuns a person, chances are good that it’s a rotten person.

    • hicusdicus

      Amen bro Bill. The more people I get to know the more I like dogs. I also have two mangy cats that rule the roost. God created dogs as a buffer between him and stupid humans.

      • Buffalo Bill

        I like cats, but I like dogs better. I pester all of them when I’m around them, and they love it.

        • hicusdicus

          But do you have geese, skunks,possum, deer, rats,coyotes and Fu***** ticks? I wish you were close. I have a beautiful 8 week old male border healer. Half collie half healer they don’t get any smarter.. We have turned down people who wanted it. Did not feel they would make good owners. I am sure he would sucker you in a heart beat.

    • NoodleDogg #1

      Check out any society in the world that does not have pets, esp. dogs. They are all troubled nations.

  • Buffalo Bill

    Research has shown that dogs may well be the most intelligent animals on the planet behind humans. Dogs have the ability for deductive reasoning that surpasses that of chimpanzees.

    Research has shown that dogs really can read our emotions. They are the only animals found to look at person’s face exactly the same way that a person looks at another person’s face.

    Dogs are the only animals found to look where we point. They will even look where you turn your eyes to look. Chimpanzees do neither.

    Where did I get this information? From a PBS Nova show called “Dogs Decoded”. Find a free download somewhere, download it and watch it. It is quite fascinating. Be prepared to see that David Koch helped fund the show. (I’m a liberal. I can’t stand the Koch brothers.)

    • hicusdicus

      The Koch bros,They employ over 70,000 people and are no different than any of the super rich. I have no political affiliations .politicians, I don’t trust any of them. They are mostly mediocre people who get introduced to big money and power and want to keep it at any cost.

      • Buffalo Bill

        It’s not that some people are super rich that I find troubling. It’s that the super rich use their wealth for political influence. They use that purchased political influence to their advantage. I don’t have enough money to be able to buy off politicians, and don’t particularly like that they not only can, but do.

        As far as I can determine this is pretty much a political website, and a liberal one at that.

        • hicusdicus

          Oh yes, liberal web site it is. Our political system is broken and we are at a constitutional tipping point. These young twits have no idea what is coming down the pike. I hope I live long enough to see the SHTF. Can you imagine the thought processing going in an anti second amendment arse’s mind when there is a Ferguson going on in front of their house? Just call 911 LOL.

  • Buffalo Bill

    Dogs are really good stuff. Anyone who doesn’t like dogs can kiss my as s.

    * Can you tell I’m a dog lover?

  • i2grok

    My 160 pound Bloodhound is a house dog, as is my tiny 65 pound foxhound.
    Enough said?